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
June 13, 2011