Week 52 – Yes, it’s been a year!

So it will be one year on Wednesday, It’s getting real folks. And my dreams are getting weirder. Last night I had a dream that I was at a BYU football game, but with a bunch of Otavalians. And I was speaking Quichua, Spanish, and English.

Oh by the way I’m learning a lot of Quichua. I can introduce myself and contact in Quichua, and it helps me gain their confidence faster and communicate with the elderly people that don’t peak Spanish.

You can all practice a few phrases:

Ima Shuti ta cangui? What is your name?

Maipitak causanki? Where do you live?

Ñucanchik misionerakunami canchik. We`re missionaries

Ima naysha? How are you?

This Tuesday we went to Quito for the leadership counsel, and afterwards my companion and I went to the hospital because my companion has problems with her ankle. The hospital is in the other mission, and so is the nurse’s house. We had to stay overnight in the nurses house, but before we got there we asked permission to do the most American thing we could think of on 4th of July…we went to Mcdonald’s haha. The only Mcdonald’s that I’ve seen in Ecuador is right next to the nurses house. Anyways, it was a very eventful fourth of July, and I think the only time that I’ll go to Mcdonald’s in my mission.

Oh, Hermana Ergueta was also in the hospital. She has a weird infection all over her legs. But she went to Mcdonald’s with us and it was great to see her again because I missed her a lot!

So we had the best experience this week with the Familia Arboleda and the Book of Mormon. I had been praying all this week to know how to use the Book of Mormon better in our sector, and especially to know which chapter we needed to share with the Familia Arboleda. The Familia arboleda had been reading the Book of Mormon and praying every day as a family, but hadn’t felt ready to attend church or accept baptism. On Friday we had a lesson with them, and for two days before the lesson, my companion and I had been deliberating about what we should teach them and which chapter from the Book of Mormon we should teach them. While studying the doctrine of Christ one morning, I felt very strongly that we should invite them to be baptized on August 19, and that we should read 3Nephi 27 together in the lesson. After discussing it with my companion, we both agreed on the chapter. We spent the whole lesson reading 3 Nephi 27, and the spirit was so strong. The mother of the family asked us right in the beginning what she needed to do to take upon herself the name of Christ. We talked about the Doctrine of Christ and the importance of repentance and baptism. The Familia Arboleda accepted the baptismal date, which was a miracle. And after 3 weeks of teaching them, they accepted the invitation to come to church. They arrived ten minutes early to church on Sunday, and the mother of the family invited and brought her mom. It was such a miracle and a blessing, and they are learning more and more about Christ and His restored gospel. I feel so blessed to witness the change in their family. The wife told us that she and her husband don’t fight like they used to, and said that there is a noticeable change in their home. The gospel is true and I’m happy to be in the mission and see so many miracles every day!

My body hurts all over from walking so much and so many hills and going out in the fields to collect herbs for people’s guinea pigs, but I feel awesome spiritually, and it’s great.

Love you all!!!

Oh by the way Sheila, the ten year old girl, says that she knows the Book of Mormon is true because she prayed about it and could feel “light all around her”. I decided that I’m going to print out a picture of us and her with the Book of Mormon and tell her to show it to the missionaries when she`s older, so that she can be baptized later on. She’s the best.

So the Book of Mormon is true and we’re trying to get more people to read it. Hermana Murphy gave a great training about using the Book of Mormon to change and convert the world, and I’m super pumped to talk with everyone about the Book of Mormon. Share it with as many people as possible! Post on facebook your favorite verses! Do something cool to get people to read it. It will change your life and the whole world.

I recently read one of my favorite parts in the Book of Mormon again, Alma’s letters to his sons in chapter 36 to 42. I love how he explains in such a loving way the doctrine of repentance. You can tell that it’s so personal to him. and he wants to share it with his sons so that they can experience the miracle of forgiveness as well.

Hasta Luego, Les amo!!!

Hermana Means

Week 51 – Learning Every Day

I’m just super grateful to be in the mission and for having the opportunity to learn new things every single day. Like all of you mentioned, I’m about to complete a year of being in the mission, and wow I feel like I still don’t know what I’m doing sometimes. But the Lord keeps teaching me how to be a better missionary and a better disciple in general, so that’s awesome.

I’ve seen tons of answers to my prayers this week. I was reading Chapter 9 of Preach my Gospel this week and the part “The importance of members” really struck me and I knew that I had to work harder this week to gain the trust of the members. So in our intercambios and throughout the week we contacted with members, we visited the members to ask for references and ideas for activities that we could do in the ward. We invited the members to many of our lessons. One of the members that we’ve been trying to work with is a young single adult. She started to get more excited about missionary work, and even invited one of her friends to church, and he came with his son! Even though he’s not from Carabuela, (he lives in Cotacachi) it was awesome to see the members getting more excited about missionary work.

Another answer to a prayer came in the form of Alma 32. I was really wondering about how we could find more people that are really ready to change and live the gospel, and I’ve been praying a lot for revelation. While reading Alma 32 I realized that Alma focused on those who were humble and repentant, and then taught them the word of God, which changed their hearts. So this week I set out to find those who are really humble and repentant, and we were truly blessed. We found two people this week in different occasions, whose first question was “How can I repent?” The golden question that every missionary wants to hear!! It was truly a miracle to find these people who want to change and need to know how. And I found so much joy in introducing to them the pure doctrine of Christ. We found a another family this week in intercambios that were truly humble and willing to apply the gospel in their marriage and family. I feel so grateful that the Lord is guiding us to these people.
I know that when we really are trying to apply Preach my Gospel and the teachings from the scriptures in our sectors, the Lord will augment our efforts and bless us with miracles.

Oh and another miracle,

I really think an angel protected me from two massive dogs that were going to eat my foot. Like no joke, we went to go contact a house and two giant dogs came and were barking and trying to bite me. They were so close and I was screaming and my companion was screaming and I really thought “ok this is it, this is going to be the moment when I finally get attacked by the dogs in our sector and I was just praying in my heart. And the dogs were trying to bite me, but they couldn’t. It was really a miracle because it was like there was a shield around me. And then they just stopped all of a sudden and walked away. And my companion afterwards told me, “Wow, I literally could see you getting eaten by those dogs, they were so close to biting your foot off.”

So yeah the Lord protects his missionaries! But don’t worry Mom, I will be more careful.

Well I love you all, I know these 6 months will pass by quickly and I want to make the most of it! Thank you for your letters and thank you for your prayers. I feel them. Sometimes I have days that are just plain hard, and then I feel just a surge of energy and gratitude and I know that it is thanks to your many prayers!!

Love you all!
Hermana Means

Week 50 – Prayer for good husbands

So this dog follows us everywhere and now her name is Alma. Cisa and John are part of a family of recent converts. Cascadas de Peguche for our Zone activity. Mote.

Well, I was super excited to hear so much about Ali’s farewell and her first week in the MTC. The MTC is such a special spiritual place and I knew that she would love it.

Things are still going well here in Carabuela, although it has still been difficult to find investigators that want to attend church. We’re going to focus more in references and working with members. I’ve realized that almost all of the baptisms in our zone have been referrals, including the baptisms that we’ve had in Carabuela, so I think that’s a good pattern to follow. Sorry to those who haven’t been on missions, I know that I use a lot of words that are hard to understand, a lot of mission lingo. I will try to be better.

So I don´t remember if I told you about the 10 year old girl that we taught that understand the Restoration perfectly?? Well we stopped by her house to see if her Mom was there. Her mom wasn´t there but the little girl, Sheila, said she had lots of questions about what she had been reading in the Book of Mormon. she whips out her Book of Mormon and the introduction is all mraked up with her notes and she starts asking us lots of questions and it was just so perfect. And then her mom showed up and we helped the mom haul like 100 pounds of potatoes up the hill where their house is. And then we taught the mom too, and Sheila prayed that Hermana Pincay and I can have a good future and find good husbands. thank you Sheila, I need your prayers haha.

This week there were lots of fiestas for the holiday Inti Raymi. It’s a Festival of the Sun. Held near summer solstice. During Inti Raymi, members of the indigenous communities go to local springs, rivers and waterfalls to undergo ritual spiritual purification, which they believe results in a renewal of energy and a strengthening of their relationship with Mother Nature. In Otavalo, this ritual takes place at midnight in the nearby waterfall that is considered to be sacred (from Ecuador.com)

It’s been very interesting. everyone makes this corn thing called Mote. It doesn’t have much flavor, it’s basically just corn that they soak and cook for a whole day. Anyways, we were helping an old lady that only speaks Quichua with her Mote, when she starts putting cement in the pot. Like dry cement. What in the world? Anyways we found out later that it’s to peel the shell of the corn kernals. Bueno.

So there aren’t many bathrooms in our sector that I trust, most of them are outside, and like three families share one bathroom. So I had to go to the bathroom and so we started contacting houses that looked the nicest to find a bathroom. We contacted a house and found a super awesome investigator – with a nice bathroom. It was a miracle indeed.

Well this investigator, Cristian, prayed and read a whole chapter in the book of mormon in one day.this is a miracle here!! He’s awesome.

Things are good. Like Sheila, I hope that all of you are praying that I find a good husband after the mission. haha just kidding…
Love you all, love your letters!

Hermana Means

Week 49 – Staying Positive


Well this week has been a little hard.
Uno, it was pretty hard to say goodbye to Hermana Pelaez. Hermana Pincay is great too, but after spending three months with Hermana Pelaez, and becoming such great friends, the transition has been a little hard.

Also, none of our investigators want to come to church. And I’ve just been thinking, ok what am I not teaching right? Why don’t people want to come to church and feel the spirit and receive divine instruction and repent with a contrite heart? I feel like I’m trying my best here, but it hurts a little when the people you love don’t want to take the fist steps to come unto Christ and receive all of the blessings that He has to offer.

BUT… I am trying to stay positive. A miracle of this week is that the spouses of two of our investigators decided to listen to us for the first time! I’m really really hoping to be able to teach more families. Entire families! I want to see them really receive the blessings of being an eternal family united in the gospel. If you haven’t yet, read The Family: A Proclamation to the World again. I really believe in this document.

Something that really helped me is that I started to really pray for and look for revelation in church. Sometimes it’s easy for me to get distracted in church because it’s in Quichua, the native language here. but I really tried to pay attention and write down the impressions that the Spirit gave me. I read Alma 26 in church and it really motivated me because like I said, I was feeling pretty down and stressed. I thought about all of the countless Sundays when I attended church, and I was a little sad, thinking about all of the opportunities that I had missed to receive revelation because I wasn’t paying attention in Sacrament Meeting or because I let my thoughts wander in Sunday school or because I was talking to someone instead of listening to the teacher and to the Spirit. so I decided that I want to always have spiritual experiences in church. I can honestly say that I have received clear answers from my Heavenly Father and my most intimate spiritual experiences during the sacrament in church, here in the mission.

I will try to include some photos. the photo that I will send is not for people with weak stomachs!! We were walking down the street and saw a family working on something, didn’t know what it was, and we offered to help. Well, they were cutting open a cow on their front porch. haha we offered to help them with something else instead.

I don’t have many other pictures because I lost the charger to my camera, but two days ago I found it! yay! Oh and today I went to a Colombian salon, and a Venezuelan dyed my hair. I don’t have picture sorry…

Week 48 – Staying in Carabuela

So, I’m staying in Carabuela this transfer but I have a new companion, Hermana Pincay, from Guayaquil, Ecuador. She’s awesome, we were in the same district in Quito and she has the same amount of time as me in the mission.

This week was full of miracles. We had some of the best lessons ever. One of these lessons, a 10 year old girl basically taught us the Restoration by herself. We were teaching her and her older cousin, and she understood better than any other person I’ve ever taught the importance of the Restoration. She understood the need for prophets, the priesthood, and the Book of Mormon. It was the most bizarre, coolest thing ever. This girl is going places.

We worked really hard this week to be able to teach with the Spirit, and we had many incredible lessons. Something that Hermana Pelaez were focusing on was really building the faith that our investigators have in Jesus Christ. We both read the talk that Dieter F. Uchtdorf gave in General Conference about not using fear to intimidate people into following the gospel. And so in our lessons we really focused on the relationship that our investigators have with Christ, their application of repentance, and their understanding of the atonement. I felt the spirit strongly in our lessons and our investigators understood so well. And so I was a little disappointed when nobody came to church, even after feeling the Spirit. I’m trying to delight in the agency of others, but sometimes it’s hard. I hope that the work we are putting into the lessons and the spirit we are bringing will help our investigators to truly desire change. For now, most of our investigators don’t seem to have a deep desire to change their lives. Teaching in a way that allows people to see the great changes that they need to make in their lives is more difficult, and often dissuades the weak in heart from listening to us. But I know that it will help us to really find, teach, and baptize converts.

We are continuing to find more people and receive more references. In Domingo we really wanted to be able to find more people to teach, So we decided to offer a prayer in order to receive more inspiration from the Spirit to know where to go. We had also been praying during the week to find families. 10 minutes after offering the prayer, we found an entire family of 7! It was a great miracle.

Keep being awesome!

Week 47 – Bucket Brigade

Ok so the internet is horrible so I haven’t been able to read some of the letters that have been sent and also I can’t send pictures but…

We had a baptism!! Mariano was baptized. He is so awesome and his testimony is so strong. So the baptism was a difficult one, because we were running late and there were no buses so we had to run through corn fields and hop over a large stream to get to the church and when we got there…The BAPTISMAL FONT WASN’T FILLED!! Ahhh the member that was supposed to do it in the morning forgot. So we only had an hour and normally it takes more than two hours to fill. So we walked outside to turn on the tap and there were a bunch of kids outside that asked us if we needed help. So yeah God sent us some angels because we put them to work filling buckets. We had an assembly line of kids and ourselves, filling buckets for the whole hour. And yeah finally it was filled but the Young man that was supposed to baptize Mariano wasn’t there. We called him and he finally came and everything was ready and yeah the baptism went well. but wow I just remember laughing, seeing all of the little kids carry buckets bigger than them. Haha.

Things are well, I don’t have lice yet even though all of the kids here have lice. Count your blessings right!!??

Thank you for your support. I’ve been really grateful for how much the Lord is helping me to overcome my weaknesses. I love Alma 7 when it talks about how Christ took upon himself our weaknesses. or at least that is the translation in Spanish, and I really like it.

Love you, Ciao

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