June 27, 2011

Posted on 10:35 AM by Elder Messer | 0 comments

It’s been a crazy week, that’s for sure! We weren`t able to get much done this week because of all the craziness that has been going on with Inty Raymi. Look up “Inty Raymi Cotacachi” on Google images or YouTube or something if you want to see what it was like. I`m sure they have some pictures or something. We tried to spend as much time out of our sector as possible but we had to run by the house a few times so we saw what it was like. Basically every village has a good of men that walk around stopping their feet on the ground in a specific pattern. They all wear chaps and weird hats with swastikas and other symbols on them. And they are all way drunk. A lot of their wives would walk behind the group to bring beer to their husbands when they wanted and to grab them and keep them from fighting with other groups when they got mad. I felt really bad for the woman. Anyway, they all carry whips and/or big whips and machetes and they go from one corner of the park to the other doing their little dance and yelling and screaming like idiots. The Ecuadorian version of the swat team was there on every corner with smoke bombs and other non-lethal weapons in case any fights broke out. They did get into a few fights but according to what I’ve heard no one has dies yet. The whole environment was just really ugly. When we walked out of the house on Friday morning and the cops were already there I could feel something heavy in the air. I don’t know how to describe it. It was like the spirit had already left that specific place altogether because it knew what was going to happen. Maybe before my mission I wouldn`t have felt it that intensely but I think being on a mission has made me more sensitive to the spirit so I really felt a difference in the atmosphere with all this. It will be the same thing this week because Inty Raymi doesn`t get over until Saturday.

Other than all that it was a great week! Why? BECAUSE WE BAPTIZED THE BONILLA FLORES FAMILY!!!!!!!!!!! Can I just tell you the baptizing a whole family is like that best feeling that a missionary can have. It was wonderful. It was like they have been waiting their whole lives for us to come teach them and baptize them. They will get confirmed next week because this week was stake conference. I`m confident that they will make it to the temple in a year.

Stake conference went really well. President Sloan came and gave 3 talks. And did a miracle…. On Saturday after the priesthood session of stake confidence he started talking with an investigator in the zone that has wanted to get baptized for 9 months but can`t because he is only 17 and his dad won`t give him permission. The missionaries have tried talking with his dad and everything else that they have been able to think of but his dad has been really hard hearted and didn`t want to give him permission. When president Sloan was talking to him he tald him that if he had faith that the lord would soften his dad`s heart. I don’t remember everything he said but I just remember that president promised him that his dad’s heart would soften. The next day he showed up at stake conference and said that his dad had given him permission. I did the baptismal interview and asked him what happened and he said that he went home and prayed really hard so that president Sloan’s promise would be fulfilled, then he went and talked to his dad about it and his dad was still hard hearted but in the middle of the night he came into his room and asked “what do you need to get baptized” and he said “just your signature” and his dad so ok I’ll do it. His dad even showed up to his baptism. It was a really neat experience though to see how president could just promise something like that and see it fulfilled. The kid asked President Sloan to baptize him so he stayed for the baptism even though he had a meeting in Ibarra right after the conference. I guess he just decided that it was an appropriate moment to focus on the one because his meeting was at 1:30 and he didn`t even leave Otavalo until 1:45 and Ibarra is like 30 minutes away. It was a really cool experience to see all that.

We did a special presentation for the conference with a giant book of mormon and we passed out referral cards to all the members as they entered. President challenged them to give referrals in his talk and we ended up getting 28 for the whole zone so that was good. Hopefully some of them will be golden.

This weekend was presidents last weekend in Ecuador. The new president gets here on Thursday, President Ghent. I think he’s from California. Its gonna be interesting to see what things will change with the new mission president.
Thanks for the package mom! I loved it!!!!
That’s all I have for this week. I love you all. Talk to you next week!

June 20, 2011

Posted on 8:33 PM by Elder Messer | 0 comments

Well first things first… Happy Fathers day dad!

This was a good week. The Bonilla Flores family seems to get more golden every day. They are seriously the most golden family that I`ve taught in my whole mission. This week they went to church and had their baptismal interviews and are getting baptized next week after stake conference. I`m really glad I didn`t get changed today because it seems to be a repeating occurrence in my mission that right when I’m about to baptize a family they change me. It happened when I left Esmeraldas and they got baptized the week after I left and they baptized a family that I had found in Ambato as well. But for once in my mission I didn`t get changed and I will finally be able to experience the joy of baptizing a family. This week we taught them about temples and eternal families and they are already way excited to go to the temple in a year. SO GOLDEN!!!

This week we had a special training with President Sloan and it was the last training that we will have with him. It was kind of sad and really “trunky”. At the end we sang “God be with you till we meet again” and then we all lined up and sister and President Sloan said goodbye to everyone one by one. Sister Sloan even gave all the elders hugs…. First time I’ve hugged a female since hugging Lindsey right before going into the MTC…kind of weird. When I was saying bye to them Sister Sloan was like “Oh you`re going to be at BYU right? We`ll see you in a couple of months then.” And president was like “yea we`re going to have mission reunions every weekend”. It was kind of weird because it was like saying goodbye but not really because they live like 20 minutes from Provo.

So this week is Inti raimi. That means “Sun god” in quichua. It’s a huge party with a bunch of crazy indigenous traditions… especially in cotacachi right where we live. There is a park right in front of our house and every year for Inti raimi all the indigenous from the different villages come to the park and play music and dance. Each village has a specific hour that they are suppose to dance. But there are 2 villages that are like enemies and they always try to dance during the other village’s time and it always turns into a big fight with rock throwing, whips, and guns. According to what everyone has told me people die every year and the police can`t do anything. They just show up and throw gas bombs and then leave and the indigenous people just stay and keep fighting each other. Our bishop used to live in the house that we live in and he said that it was like watching a war scene in really life from the window. I talked with the missionary that was here last year at this time and he said that he saw someone die and that the tear gas from the bombs got into the house. I`m not sure what we`ll do. I think we might just go work with other missionaries in their sector on Friday and Saturday because those are the worst days. This week in church the bishop gave a very direct talk about traditions and told the members that they shouldn`t go to the park this week to participate in the music or dances. He spoke in quichua but I understood like 50 % of what he said and it was a powerful talk. Anyway this week should be interesting but don`t worry there’s not really any danger for us. I would just prefer to not see people dying.
Well that’s all I have for this week. I love you all! Talk to you next week!

May and June

Posted on 8:22 AM by Elder Messer | 0 comments

June 13, 2011

Well i`ll be honest, I don`t really know what to write about this week… It was a pretty normal un-eventful week. I`ll try and make this a good letter but no promises…

The zone has been having a lot of problems lately, in the last 2 weeks we`ve only baptized 1 person and have only found 8 families between 4 companionships. We had a meeting this week with the stake presidency to try and get them to help us because we depend so much on the members here because of the difficulties with the language and with everything being so far apart. We told them about our struggles and asked for there help. Their response wasn`t really what we were hoping for. One of the councilors suggested that we stop inviting people to be baptized in the first lesson because it scares them away. Then the stake president Suggested that when we find a family we should ask them when we can come back instead of saying “can we come back on such a day?” because that scars them away too. They said that in their missions they did things differently. We tried to explain as gently as we could that things have changed a lot since their missions and we explained a little bit about the doctrine of Christ and our purpose as missionaries but I don’t think they got it very well. We told President Sloan what happened when he called us today and he said that he wants us to go teach each member of the stake presidency a special lesson in their homes with their families about the Doctrine of Christ and that the whole zone should teach the same thing to their bishops before the upcoming stake conference. Then in the stake conference in priesthood session he is going to teach the same thing to back us up. On the phone this morning President told me, ”Don`t worry Elder Messer, This won`t be the first time that humble 19 and 20 year old servants of the lord have taught bishops and stake presidents what the Doctrine of Christ really is”. Hopefully it all goes well in these upcoming 2 weeks and we can see a lot of improvements.

The half way good news for this week is that the Father of the Bonilla Flores family went to church. His wife couldn`t make it because their baby daughter got really sick with a fever for the second week in a row and she had to take her to the hospital. But the Dad went and really liked in. if the mom goes to church this week and next week they will be able to get baptized the first week in July. Keep them in your prayers! So far they are the most golden family that I have ever taught in my mission.
Other than that it was a very normal week. So that’s all I have for this week. I love you all and I`ll write again next week!

June 6, 2011

Well this week was good like almost every other week. On Tuesday we had zone leader conference which was fun as usual. It was presidents last zone leader conference before he goes home so it was kinda a tender day for everyone. President Started telling us a lot about his wife and even told us the story of when they met for the first time. It was pretty funny. Then he started talking a lot about marriage and started telling us how important it was to not delay marriage and to start looking as soon as we get back. He said we should apply what we have learned on the mission to finding a wife when we get back. We need to talk with everyone and invite girls in the first date. We should always have 9 progressing girls, but we should always be looking for new girls at the same time… haha it was pretty funny… I guess you just had to be there.

The next day we passed by the mission offices before going home and they had my “Trunky Paper” waiting for me. That’s what they send to all the missionaries who are getting ready to go home. I had to fill it out with a bunch of info like what ward and stake I will be returning to and what airport I will fly into. I filled it out as fast as I could so that I wouldn`t have to think about it too much. While I was in the office a bunch of missionaries were looking up there houses on Google earth so I told them our address so that they could look up our house and it looks like mom got her photo taken by google earth because there is a lady in front of our house that looks just like you mom. Your basically famous in the mission now. Haha

Last week the bishop gave us a referral of a family that works for him. The Bonilla Flores family. We have been teaching them and they are progressing very well. They read and pray and they were gonna go to church this week but their daughter got sick and they had to take her to the hospital on Sunday. Hopefully this upcoming week they can attend church. They have accepted a baptismal date and everything.

Our other investigator that had a baptismal date isn`t progressing quite as well. We went to visit him on Saturday and right as we got there we found him walking out of his house with a huge case of beer. We tried to stop him and ask if we could share something with him but he just said “I`m busy right now” and walked away. He went to the village party (to celebrate a catholic baptism) and got completely wasted. We`ve been trying to help him stop drinking for like 2 months now but he isn`t really showing much progress or a desire to stop so I think we might have to drop him for now.

Anyway, other that that I don’t really have much to tell you all about. I just send some pictures as well because pictures are a lot better than a letter anyway… at least that’s what I think. I love you all!

p.s. a returned missionary from 3 years ago that is back visiting with his wife just saw us and came up and asked to take a picture with us…… that might be me someday haha….

May 30, 2011

Well this week has been a rather busy one. We were only able to teach 8 lessons because we spent so much time out of our sector but I still consider it a good week. On Tuesday we had zone conference which always lasts pretty much all day. It was really good though. We learned a lot about spiritual gifts and the importance of seeking them in order to overcome our weaknesses. I had to direct the conference which was a first for me but it was pretty simple. My companion and I had to teach the rest of the missionaries as well about giving hope to people through the atonement. We taught some fairly simple stuff. We read in Moroni 10:22 and Moroni 7:41 and talked about how almost all of the investigators feel a degree of despair in their lives for the sins that they have committed or are committing. And when we show up with the spirit it only makes them feel even worse. That’s why a lot of them try and “run away” from us and aren`t there when we show up for the 2nd appointment or our busy or decided that they aren`t interested any more. They feel guilt and shame in our presence and it’s easier for them to “run away” and not have to be in our presence. It’s like when Adam and Eve tried to hide from God after they ate the fruit. They felt guilt and being in God’s presence only made it worse. That’s why it’s so important as missionaries to always testify of the Atonement which is the ultimate and only source of real hope like it explains in Moroni 7:41. We have to leave the investigator with enough hope to overcome the guilt that they feel in our presence so that they don`t run away from us and so that they keep listening to us. At the beginning of my mission I always wondered why people were so flakey with us and why they would always hide or give us excuses but know I understand a little more. And In a way I understand how we will all feel arriving to God’s presence if we haven’t repented and taken advantage of the Atonement in our lives. It really will be like Moroni describes in Mormon 9:3-6. Anyway, I always learn a ton when I have to prepare to teach something. On Wednesday we had a normal day.

On Thursday we had a mission conference in Quito. They told us that Elder Scott was going to come but something happened and he couldn`t make it so they sent Elder Gonzalez from the presidency of the 70 instead. It was a really good conference. He basically just let us ask him questions the whole time. It was amazing our much doctrine he could just pull out without having to think twice about it. He was almost as good as Brother Bott with quoting Prophets and scriptures off the top of his head. He was really funny as well. It was a really good conference and I learned a lot. I didn`t really learn that much stuff that was completely new but I guess I just understood better things that I already knew. I feel like being on a mission I have gained a simpler but deeper understanding of the gospel. It’s kinda hard to explain…. I guess it’s just the result of learning from the spirit and not with my own knowledge. Simple principles that I didn`t even think twice about before the mission now mean so much more to me… It’s kinda cool. On Friday we spent the whole day outside of our sector trying to help other missionaries in the zone. In the mission we are “playing swarm defense”…. It’s a defensive strategy in football that says that everyone on the team goes after the person that has the ball. It is different than a man on man defense or a zone defense. Basically it works like this: Whenever anyones investigator in the zone has a problem we go to try and help them even if it means leaving behind our own sector. We have to “follow the ball” and go wherever there is a challenge or opposition. So that’s what we did on Friday. My companion went with one companionship and I went with another and we tried to “rescue” investigators that were having problems.

On Saturday we had another normal day…although Saturdays are anything but normal here in Otavalo… Everyone and their Dog go to the market to sell and/or buy. It makes things hard as a missionary. Sunday was normal as well. The bishop was kind enough to drive us around in his car all day so that we didn`t have to walk hours to all the little villages. He took us to some of his friends as well so now we have a new family to teach. They look like they could have potential. Anyway, that’s about it for my week. This week should be another busy one. We are traveling to Quito tonight and will get back on Wednesday because tomorrow we have zone leaders council. I`m looking forward to it like always. It should be fun. Anyway, thanks for everything. I love you all! Until next week!

May 23, 2011
Well I guess I´ll start telling you all a little bit about last week because I didn´t really get to write last week. It was a good week. We had 5 baptisms so I can´t really complain. Lisbeth, Joselyn, Israel, Kevin, and Maribel. They were all baptized in the ward that the missionaries haven’t gone to in forever. Lisbeth and Kevin are the children of a family that just barely became active again after 8 years. The Sunday that we showed up to church in Carabueala was the first Sunday that they went to church after8 years. It was like we showed up just at the right time. Israel and Joselyn are kids that have been going to church every week for a long time that were of baptismal age but had never been baptized. All we did was show up and ask them if they wanted to be baptized and they said “yes we´ve been waiting for the missionaries to come baptize us”. Maribel is the bishops sister in law. Her husband is a member and she had been going to church for a longtime. She had listened to the missionaries before but didn´t want to get baptized before because she is latin and doesn´t understand quichua so she has no idea what’s going on in church. We showed up at her house one night and taught baptism and invited her to be baptized and 2 weeks later she got baptized. I feel like we had 5 free baptisms. But that’s alright….I like free baptisms. There was some opposition on the day of the baptism though….. The font wouldn´t fill up. We got to the church about an hour before the baptism and went and checked the font and water was coming out and going right down the drain. The person that tried to fill up the font had just but a piece of plastic and a rock over the drain but it wasn´t working…. I´m not gonna lie, I wasn´t surprised. I think probably over 80% of the baptisms that I’ve had on my mission have had problems filling the font. Anyway, we got it figured out and closed the drain so that the font would fill but at 5 when the baptism was supposed to start there wasn´t enough water so we had to delay the baptism another hour. On top of that about half of the ward had gone to tulcan and Maribel went with them so there weren´t many members there and one of the people that was supposed to get baptized wasn´t there either. So we ended up having 2 baptismal services. 1 at 6 and the other at 8. But at the end of the day everyone got baptized that was supposed to so it was a success. Maribel´s husband baptized her and it was a really special experience.
Other than that last week was pretty normal. We did find a guy bathing himself in the chapel though…. I guess he didn´t have running water in his house. It was a little bit awkward when we walked in and he had his shirt off throwing water on himself. Haha

This week was pretty good as well. It was pretty normal but I did have one experience that is worth telling. On Friday I did a baptismal interview in which the guy I was interviewing confessed that he had been unfaithful to his wife (she was already a member). I told him that in order to get baptized he needed to confess to his wife and ask for forgiveness. He said he would do it and I told him that I would be at his baptism the next day to verify that he had done it. So the next day we went early to his baptism and he walked in with his family and his wife was in tears. I took the guy into a room and asked him if he had done what I asked him to do and he began to tell me that he had but that his wife hadn´t taken it very well. We had a very emotional/good conversation and I told him that it might take some time but that he would be able to recuperate his relationship with his wife. When we walked out I noticed that his wife was in an interview with the bishop. It was way dramatic and we were all worried that his baptism wouldn´t be a good experience because of all the drama. The wife could hardly keep from crying during the opening hymn. But then my companion gave a powerful talk about the cleansing power of the atonement and then he got baptized and afterwards he gave a powerful testimony (It was in quichua but I could still feel that it was a powerful testimony). Then after the baptismal service was over we went and shook the wives hand and she started crying and saying thank you to the missionaries that had taught and baptized her husband and said that everything was gonna be ok. Elder Merrill told me today that they were holding hands at church and that they are doing great now. It was a really cool experience for me because I got to witness first hand and be a part of the healing and forgiving power of the atonement. It’s amazing the things that can be healed and made right thanks to what Christ did. That man isn´t the same person anymore. He is a new creature born through the atonement of Christ. All his sins and mistakes and behind him and someday he will be able to be sealed with his family in the temple, thanks to the miracle of forgiveness.

Well that’s all I have for now. I haven’t written this in a while but I really am very sorry to you people that still write me so consistently that I haven’t written in so long!!!!! But thank you soooo much for your letters!!! It makes my day every time I get a letter!!! Anyway, I love you all!

May 9, 2011

Well there’s not really that much to talk about this week since I just talked to you all yesterday. It was a pretty slow week here as well. On Tuesday we had zone leader’s council. It was good like always. On Wednesday we had leaders meeting and on Wednesday night we got back to cotacachi just in time to sleep. The rest of the week went pretty fast. Lisbeth didn`t get baptized this week because her mom still wont give her permission. Bummer! Shes so golden and its so frustrating that we cant baptize her but oh well…. I`m sure she´ll get baptized someday, even if i`m not here to see it. This upcoming weekend we are planning to have 4 baptisms: Estrella, Kevin, Joselyn, and Maribel. They all had their interviews on Sunday and all passed except for Maribel. She has to have an interview with president sloan so hopefully we can get that done this week. Other than that theres not really any big news. I stared buying suvoniers today. So far i have scarfs for like 15 different soccer teams and some other pretty scarfs for Mom and Desi. I already told you this but I guess I`ll say it again… Elder Scott is coming to our mission and we are having a 4 hour conference with him on the 26th of this month. I`m pretty excited. They made it very clear that members are not invited. Its only for full time missionaries. Other than that I dont really have much to tell you. Happy mothers day again mom! It was kinda wierd talking on skype yesterday knowing that the next time I see you all will be in 3 months in person. Anyway, I love you all and hope you have a wonderful week!
-Elder Brandon Messer