Week 46 – We hear you Mariano, so does Oprah

Here are pictures of a birthday party with recent converts and investigators, and a photo with members from Ibarra that invited us to lunch. The people are awesome!!

So I appreciate all of your letters and I read every single one! And I print them If I don’t have time to read them and try to get back to you the next week! Sorry I’m so horrible at writing!!! But I’m trying to be better with photos! 

So this week we’re going to have a baptism!!! Mariano!! Mariano is awesome. He’s 14 years old but his testimony and his desire to repent is so strong! I love him and his brother Atahualpa! They are very special. When we taught Mariano the word of wisdom, he was very concerned about addiction. When we asked him if he had an addiction, he explained very seriously that he was addicted to bread. Haha oh man it was hard not to laugh, but it was just so sweet. He was so concerned about following the word of wisdom that he told us he would try to eat less bread. We had to explain to him that bread wasn’t anything all that bad, and i think all of us have a little bit of an addiction to bread. But we did tell him that if he continued to eat lots of bread every day he might gain some weight. Wow he’s awesome. And his brother won’t stop asking us the funniest questions. Hay una Diosa?? 

I’m doing very well and fighting off mosquitos and bed bugs. It’s a great adventure. haha Love you all!!! Keep reading your scriptures! I’m in Alma right now, and I love how Alma speaks with such power. And His greatest desire is that people repent and come unto Christ. I’m feeling more of that overwhelming desire every day. 

Your letters are welcomed with open arms. I want more updates!!

Week 45 – Pigs & Papaya

So sorry I’ve been horrible about emailing. I really have had like no time, but I’m trying to at least send pictures.

We’re seeing a lot of miracles, we’ve found tons of new investigators and almost broke the record in the mission. The Lord is blessing us with tons of people to teach here.

We’ve been trying to make pigs fall asleep by scratching their bellies with sticks, because we’ve heard that it’s a cool trick. It´s not working.

I eat a papaya every day. I will send a picture of my papaya.

I love the people here with all of my heart, they are truly amazing.

I’m going to cut the hair of some kids here this week.

I ate pig and cow stomach last week. It didn’t taste good, but with the strength of the Lord, all things really are possible and I ate all of it.

Wendy is our investigator that’s 17 years old and she’s awesome.

Wendy talked with her dad and he wants her to wait more time before getting baptized, so she doesn’t have a date for the time being. But the change that we’ve seen in her has really been a miracle. Before, she didn’t really take our teaching seriously, and didn’t have the faith necessary to be able to keep her commitments. But after a great lesson about faith and the gospel of Jesus Christ, guided by the Spirit, everything changed for her. She is reading, attending church, and praying constantly. She told us many experiences that she’s had this week with faith and prayer. It´s really been amazing to see how the gospel of Jesus Christ can really give people the power that they need to change. It’s sad because she really wants to be baptized as soon as possible, but we know that this challenge with the permission of her parents will only help her testimony to grow stronger. #Maythespiritbewithyou

Love you all!!!

Week 42, 43, 44 – Updates from Carabuela

Week 42: Well we received transfers and Hermana Pelaez and I are staying together in Carabuela!! I´m excited because I really love this sector. The hard part is that they are dividing our sector in two and Elders are coming. But I trust the elders that are coming with our investigators, they’re great. So I have no time to write because today we moved houses, but I will try to send pictures. I used Anaco for the stake conference, it’s the traditional clothing for the indigenous here, and all of the stake came traditionally dressed. Look how tall I am compared to Otavaleñas haha. (Sydney is about 5’2″)

Week 43: So this week we’re going to have a baptism and I’m super excited because Diana is so awesome, and she’s learning so much. she takes notes in every class at church. She’s the best. We love her tons. I have a lot of love for the people here, they are really special.

Week 44: (Note from Jill Means) Sydney is in an area where very few people have computers and she has very limited time to send letters, and photos take too long to load because of the slow connection. However, we were able to Skype with her on Mother’s Day and it was such a great experience! She has and adorable Spanish accent and frequently uses words in Spanish instead of English. She loves the area she is in. Most of the people speak the native language Quichua and still dress in traditional clothing. She says all the boys have beautiful long hair in braids. People are mostly farmers or artisans. People are kind and will listen, especially if they serve them first. So, they often husk corn, or wash clothes (by hand) or do other service for the people, then they will in turn listen to their message. There are a lot of mosquitoes in this area, so she wears pants most of the time or a skirt with thick tights to protect her from bites. She would love to serve in the Ecuadorian Amazon in the jungle, but they never send sister missionaries there (I’m glad about that). She loves her companion, who is from Guatemala.

Week 41 – Almost Otavaleña

This week was a bit of a heartbreaker for us in our sector. A lot of our investigators started leaving us for different reasons. Really good, awesome people. And sometimes I can’t help but think, maybe I’m doing something wrong? But wow lots of opposition. One of our investigators Luis was progressing so much and super excited to read the Book of Mormon. And then two days later we visited him and he told us that he didn’t want to talk to us, that he would never read the Book of Mormon or go to our church again. Turns out he talked to the pastor of another church and this pastor told him a lot of things that just aren’t true. That we worship Joseph Smith, that our “boss” pays us tons of money to convince people to join our cult. stuff like that. It made me so sad because he was so happy just three days before when he went to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints for the first time. And he just totally hardened his heart and changed. It’s sad, but hopefully through serving him and helping him he will be willing to listen and read and attend again. but to all of those who are not members of this church and have questions, please look to the right sources for your answers! You’ll be grateful and things will be a lot less confusing! I would suggest starting with the Book of Mormon. It’s a good book.

Anyways, on a lighter note, I got the package that you sent me Mom! I loved the pictures of our family. I was with two 10 year old indigenous kids when I received it, and when one saw the picture he said “¡Bonita está!” Haha he’s adorable.

So I’m almost officially an otavaleña. I bought the indigenous shoes that they wear here. they’re kind of weird looking but super comfortable. And they cost three dollars. They’re called apargates. Oh and I ate cuyí for the first time. Cuyí is Guinea Pig. I ate in a soup, and it wasn’t too bad. The skin is super weird because it’s thick and it tastes sweet? But yeah I still prefer chicken haha.

oh, two of our investigatiors that disappeared reappeared! One of them is Jose Manuel, and he’s awesome. his understanding is pretty slow and he doesn’t know how to read, but his testimony is so strong and seeing him again and teaching him made me so happy!!!

But yeah, anyways, I’m gaining a testimony of how much serving others can make us happy, I love the opportunities we have to help people with random things, like pealing corn and beans, washing clothes by hand, and throwing tree branches over a fence. It’s the best.

Love you all! Do something nice for someone today!!

Love hermana Means

Week 40 – Easter

I don’t have a lot of time to write today because we had a special conference in Quito and I had to travel for 6 hours. But it was worth it because it was a special conference with elder Christofferson of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles. How blessed we are to have a living prophet and 12 apostles, and how blessed we are to be able to hear their words and be in their presence. It is amazing to me that we have modern revelation, and yet it makes so much sense. What loving Heavenly Father would abandon His children in these generations? I’m eternally grateful to know that in a world of confusion and changing morals and opinions, the word of God is firm, and declared by His prophets and apostles, both ancient and modern.

I’m very happy in Carabuela because we are finding lots of new investigators every week, and many of the investigators that we have are progressing and going to church. I’m very tired, almost all of the time, but when you’re on the errand of the Lord He helps you make it through somehow.

So the conference with Elder Christofferson was awesome because everything that was said fit perfectly with what I’ve been focusing on in my personal prayers and scripture study. Mostly repentance, and what it means for me and my investigators. Sometimes I still struggle with the concept of repentance, I think because before I was a major perfectionist. And also before the mission I practically thought that I was perfect. Well not perfect, but comparing myself to others left me thinking “Hey I’m doing pretty good.” It wasn’t until I got to the mission that I realized how much I need the Lord because of how imperfect I am. Sometimes I feel a lot like what King Benjamin described, being nothing more than the dust of the earth. I feel so small sometimes and so weak and well, basically a sinner. And it can be a little hard sometimes to realize that. But if we don’t realize our own nothingness, we can’t truly appreciate the miracle of the Atonement and the Forgiveness and sanctifying power of God. It brings tears to my eyes every time that I think about what Christ did for me, and the confidence that he has in me, even when I constantly fall short of being more like Him. But like it says in Predicad mi Evangelio, as we come to understand the Atonement better, our desire to share the gospel increases. And that was something that was touched on a lot in the conference. If we truly understand the Doctrine of Christ, we start living it better and teaching it better to others. And I want to know Christ more completely than I do right now in these coming months, so that I can teach as He taught, invite as He invited, and live as He lived.

Easter means a lot more to me now, because I can feel the love that Christ had as he suffered and died for us, and the love that he still has for us as he helps us each day to overcome our weaknesses and develop His attributes, and feel true joy.

Love you all,

Hermana Means

Week 39 – The Belgium Connection

So I have tons of stories to share and no time. I went to go harvest some corn in order to contact a family that we found in the street. It was awesome, I got eaten alive by mosquitos but we harvested the corn and found a family of 10!!! that all wanted to listen to us and all accepted a baptism challenge. Yay!!

Also, get this. I found a family that is moving to Ali’s mission next week!!! They are going to go live in Belgium in Antwerp, because they lived there before for 15 years, and they speak dutch!! Wow, it was crazy how we found them. I went to go do divisions with Hermana Polson. (My companion and I do so many divisions, and I’m exhausted! But it´s fun!) Anyways and we saw a family trying to move like blocks up 6 flights of stairs. I thought these blocks were made out of wood. Nope, Concrete. It was so exhausting but we helped them carry like 20 blocks of concrete up 6 flights of stairs, and let me tell you, it was the best exercise we’ve had in a while. And yeah we taught the family afterwards and they are moving to Belgium next week. Way cool. Miracles people.

So now my sister just has to find them, baptize their family, and we’ll be in the Ensign. Super cool.

Yeah so the work is good and I´m so tired and a little frustrated because I just feel like I’m worried about the whole mission, all of the time. But I’m happy. Love you all!

Week 38 – The Opposition: Dogs & Kids

So things have been good and we’re wroking hard here in Carabuela. I’ve also been getting to know the hermanas in the 2 zones that Hermana Pelaez and I are in charge of. They’re awesome.

So this week we realized that the opposition in our sector consists of dogs and kids. The dogs here are vicious. A dog bit my companion in the leg and I almost got attacked too. It’s lovely haha. We have an investigator and her dogs are locos, so when we went to visit her we first armed ourselves with large stones and corn stalks (the whole town of Carabuela is just a bunch of houses spread apart in the midst of corn fields) in order to fight the dogs. And yeah it turns out that she wasn´t even home. Oh and the kids. Every time we try to share a lesson a kid starts screaming and it´s impossible to share anything with their parents. But we’ll bring stickers and candy to the lessons from now on.

So we watched General Conference, and it was soooo good. Like I was on cloud nine and I just felt so much joy in my heart and love for the prophets and apostles and love for this church and this gospel. It’s so true. It’s not easy to be a Latter Day Saint, but I’m telling you, it’s so worth it. I loved how they talked about not being a part-time disciple, and the importance of spiritual integrity. And they basically said that to develop this spiritual integrity, we can’t forget the fundamentals. Like scripture study. And meaningful prayer. And loving service. We are all responsible for our personal religious observance. And not just on Sundays, but every day.

Well I was reading in Omni and it reminded me to write in my journal more often haha.

But also I was reading the first chapters of Mosiah and they are so powerful. The power of obedience and repentance goes hand in hand.

Well I will try to send photos but usually it doesn’t let me here. Sorry.

Love you all, thanks for the letters!!

Hermana Means

Week 36 & 37 – More Pigs than People

So I have like no time to write because I just got to my new sector in Otavalo. I’m in the middle of nowhere practically, where they are all indigenous and speak the indigenous language of Quichua, so that will be exciting haha. The ward is all in Quichua, so I guess I’ll be learning a little bit of another language.

I called as sister training leader here, so I´m a little nervous but I also know that it will be a great chance to learn a lot more about how to be a disciple of Jesus Christ. I’ll need all of the prayers that I can get haha.

Going from Quito to Imbaya is like being in a whole other country, but I´m excited for the change. I was feeling a little suffocated in the city. I´m now in the land of mosquitos, lots of mountains, and eating guinea pig.

Hermana Pelaez is my compañera, she´s awesome and I´m so excited to work with her, we were in the same district in Ibarra.

So my sector is Carabuela in the Zona Imbaya. And it’s a whole other world. Like I said before haha. I think there are more cows and pigs than people. And I have more mosquito bites than I can count, and I swear that these aren’t normal mosquitos. They itch way way worse. But besides that and the parasites that I’m sure are chilling in my abdomen, things are good haha.

I really do love this sector. We have to teach a lot of lessons with little kids as our translators, but it’s fun. Everyone has been telling me how hard this sector is and I´m so sick of it. Any sector can be a good sector, I have a firm belief in that. And I love in Jacob 5, when the Lord’s servant is saying that he can’t believe that good fruit could come out of infertile soil. And the Lord basically says, “Don’t tell me which parts of my vineyard are fertile and which parts aren’t, only I know my vineyard perfectly, and only I know which trees will bring forth good fruit.”

I´am working on having faith, especially the faith that there can be miracles and baptisms in every sector. And the faith is paying off because this week we found tons of new investigators and we have 11 people with a baptismal date, just from this week. So yeah I’m super excited and I love my companion and we are going to kill it in this sector. Of course not with our own abilities, but with the Lord on our side, I think we can see tons of miracles in Carabuela.

Cool things that happened…so I don´t remember much because this week flew by, We found lots of old investigators that want to listen and be baptized, so that was awesome. We had a lesson literally in a pig sty. It rained buckets and I think I fell in the mud three times. And washing laundry by hand is the worse haha.

Other spiritual experiences…So really Hermana Pelaez and I have been reading and talking about faith and a good attitude, and literally every time that an appointment fell, we kept a positive attitude and a miracle happened, We found new investigators every day, Things are going well. I’m trying to focus on charity this week and loving the people with all of my heart, even when I don’t understand them. And obedience, always working on being obedient with exactness. Super excited for General Conference. We get to listen to a modern day prophet. General Conference is the best in the mission because you’re always teaching people of the Restoration and the miracle of modern day prophets and apostles and the priesthood. And your testimony of the Restoration grows so much and then there’s General Conference and you just feel like it´s Moses, or Paul, or Lehi that´s talking directly to you. I know and testify that Thomas S. Monson is a prophet of God and that it is a privilege to have revelation from God for our day, It´s the best.

Love, Hermana Means

Week 35 – Life is good

Wow I hit 8 months! man time s flying by, I still feel like a greenie in the mission but I guess I’m almost halfway done. Still have this fear that it’s going to go by too fast and I’m just going to forget everything that happened. It’s weird.

So I don’t have lots of time. Like always. But we’re seeing lots of miracles. We have three baptisms scheduled for next week! Emmanuel Chendaka (the guy from South Africa) and the familia Mendoza. They all have tons of faith, and I love talking to them and teaching them. They strengthen my faith so much. The Mendoza family came from the coast to here because there were floods where they were living. And when they got here all of their things got stolen, and they literally had nothing. No clothes, no money, no food, nothing. The family consists of a 35 year-old man, his 18 year old daughter, and her two kids, that are two and 8 months. A family in our ward found them in the park and invited them to church, the ward helped them out tons, and they started taking the lessons and have so much faith and are so genuine. The Lord really works miracles in people’s lives. The gospel changes people, for reals.

Well we have changes at the end of this week so I probably won’t see these baptisms, but I’m so excited for them! Life is good in the mission, I’m working on having more faith, Love the letters I get, Love the prayers that you give on my behalf, I feel it.

-Sydney Means

Week 34 – Teaching some Non-Ecuadorians

Sydney didn’t send any photos this week, but I found these on their mission Facebook page – yay.

So hey, it’s been an interesting week. going to focus on the miracles and the ups of the mission in this email, like always. But just to keep it real, maybe I’ll add some downs, who knows.

So first, I’d like to formally congratulate my sister on her mission call to Belgium-Netherlands, Dutch speaking!!! I just found out, so that’s pretty awesome. I’m super excited, although I’ll miss you Ali!! And I can testify of the gift of tongues haha, so I know she’ll do great with the language and everything.Tthe mission is such a miracle. (you can watch this cool video of Ali’s Opening made by Ali’s friend, Truman)

So about the Non-ecuadorians…We have an investigator from South Africa that doesn’t speak Spanish very well so I`ve been teaching him in english, and he is just so cool. He really gets it, especially the nature of god and the importance of repentance. It’s hard to teach in English surprisingly, because I’m so used to speaking in Spanish, but it’s a good way to really stop and think about what I really want to say and listen to the Spirit.

Also, I’m pretty sure I found the only Californians that live in Carcelen, and now we`re teaching them, so yeah it’s pretty great. It’s this really cute Christian family from Hunington Beach that just moved to Ecuador and the have 4 kids all under the age of 6 (sound familiar mom?) and the wife speaks Spanish and the husband is learning. We’ve only taught the wife but we’re going to try to find a time with the husband too, which means more teaching in English haha, not my favorite, pero a veces le toca.

A few funny things…

One of our investigators forgot the name for “Zion” so she was talking for 5 minutes about “Oz”, and we were so confused. Hahaha when we realized she was talking about Sìon, we couldn’t stop laughing, and she couldn’t either. She said it was because her son’s favorite movie was the Wizard of Oz, hahaha.

Our other investigator was reading the preface of one of the chapters in the Book of Mormon, and you know how they put the years in the pre-face? Well the preface was talking about eternal torment or hell or something so she thought that the years were degrees Celcius, and that hell was going to be exactly 241 degrees Celcius. I tried so hard not to laugh. Our investigators are so great and so funny.

So something weird, one of our investigators house was overcome by rats so she had to move out of our sector. We passed by her house right when she was moving out and we could hear rats banging against the door. So if that doesn’t give you nightmares, I don’t know what will.

Love you all!! The mission isn`t easy and sometimes I just feel like my weaknesses are just too much. But I’ve been thinking a lot and reading a lot about the plan of salvation, and weaknesses and mistakes are so necessary for our progression, because it`s the only way we truly learn and rely on the Savior. God reallly will make our weaknesses strong, even if it takes a whole lifetime to do it.

Thank you for your prayers and fasts and love and emails, they mean the world to me!!!