Week 62 – (Week 2 in the Promised Land)

(Sydney didn’t take this photo, but this is the area that she is serving)

Things are going well here in Coca. We’re getting used to the heat, but it’s really not too bad, we’ll have a nice farmer’s tan after this sector. The branch continues to support our efforts, they are doing their best. It’s hard to see that there are only about a dozen strong members and only about 5 are really holding everything together, but their efforts really inspire me to do more and be better. This week we had activities with the young women and all of the youth and it went well. These young women especially need good role models here. the majority of the women here in Coca are mistreated or have 6 kids with 6 different men, broken homes and broken families. It’s easy to see why the gospel and the commandments are so essential in the home. It has given me an even greater motivation to share this message with as many individuals and families possible.

This week we had some amazing experiences. We found some people with great potential. we sat down and talked with a woman who has been having great troubles in her family and in her relationship, and we immediately began to testify that the restored gospel really does bring peace and happiness. Immediately after my companion offered the first prayer, the woman looked at us, with tears in her eyes, and said “I want to go to your church, I want to know God” it was very special and she accepted a Book of Mormon and said that she would read it to find the peace that she desperately needs in her life.

I think crying is a normal thing here in coca, because the other day we had another lesson with a woman who has great interest in the gospel, and we shared the restoration with her. As we shared the first Vision of Joseph Smith she started crying. I thought that things like that only happened in movies like “The Best Two Years” haha. But seriously she started crying and told us that as she listened to the experience, she felt an overwhelming need to strengthen her relationship with God and listen to our message in its entirety. So that was a really cool experience.

Another experience that has to do with crying. So the ward mission leader called us right before sacrament meeting to tell us that we had to give talks in church. we had about ten minutes to prepare. I felt like I was back in high school, living the nightmare of procrastination all over again. but yeah I chose to give my talk on the Plan of Salvation and ho marvelous it is to know who we are and why we are here and where we are going. Well later that day we met with an investigator family that attended church and the mom told us that her 10 year old son cried during my talk because I talked about death and he’s afraid of dying. So the mom asked us if we could explain the Plan of salvation to her son and help him to understand. The faith of this mom really struck me, because she knows with all of her heart that the Plan of Salvation is real and that it can calm the fears of her son. It was awesome to be able to answer the question of this young boy and see that the message of the Plan of redemption is something familiar for us all, because it really is the story of our existence.

Familia Almeida are doing great, their baptism is scheduled for this Saturday. They both have strong testimonies, and even though Hermano Jose doesn’t understand everything he reads or everything that is said in church, he has great faith that leads him to follow Christ and keep the commandments. Kerly understands everything and is a great help to the young women organization, she is always actively involved and participating. She loves reading the Book of Mormon. The members have been a huge help, a strong family invited them over yesterday to show them how to have family night and hermanarles.

Lester Lapo Moreno is a young man that we met last week when he attended church, and yesterday was our first lesson with him, even though he’s attended seminary for a year and church almost every Sunday for 10 months, the missionaries only recently started to visit him. We had planned to share the Restoration with him, but he already knew every detail of the Restoration and basically taught it to us, he even shared his testimony that he knows that this church is true because he received an answer to his many prayers and has felt the truth through the Holy Ghost. He has been reading the Book of Mormon and knows it`s true, he knows all of the commandments, and he asked us when he can be baptized. He’s really prepared, and we want to continue teaching him and choose an inspired date for his baptism. He has a great relationship with the Relief Society President, who teaches the seminary class, and knows and is friends with all of the other youth. and he loves the gospel!

Love this work, love the mission, everything is great. Thank you for your prayers!!!

Love, Hermana Means

Week 61 – Coca!


Wow Coca is a land of mircales people!!! I love it. Ok yeah it’s hot and yeah there are bugs, but it’s not too bad. Literally you take three steps from your house and your in the middle of the jungle. It’s crazy. but the other side is a cute little town haha. It’s not like hottttt but it’s humid and so we are constantly sweating. I love it here.

The branch is tiny, but there are three missionary companionships. We are going to work hard to turn this branch into a ward. We have our meetings in a remodeled home. It´s crazy hot but the members are so great and the branch President is awesome. They are excited to have sisters for the first time in 6 years.

So we’ve only had a few days to work here (2) but we’ve already seen many miracles. We contacted a lady, Rosa, in the street on Saturday, and invited her to a baptism in the capilla. She came to the baptism, loved it, and wanted to learn more. On Sunday we taught her and her 19 year old daughter, and it was such a great lesson. They were especially interested in the Book of Mormon, and we were able to share scriptures with them that really touched their hearts.

The Almeida Family is so great. The father and one of the daughters have the most interest and desire to be baptized, and they both have a baptismal date for the 23. We read a chapter with them in the Book of Mormon about the doctrione of Christ and it really helped them to understand better the purpose of baptism in the plan that God has for us. The chapter had such an impact on the 18 year old son that he came to church for the first time on Sunday.

Another family came to church and asked us to visit them. The elders had been visiting them but stopped because they had no desire to get married. The “husband” is a member, less active, and his wife and daughters aren´t members. We taught them about the importance of commandments in the plan that the Lord has for his children, and how when we start living the commandments, “the plan of redemption immediately begins to work in our lives” The members that came with us testified of the blessings of an eternal family and their own experience of being baptized and then sealed in the temple. After reading in the Book of Mormon and listening to the testimony of the members, the family accepted a wedding date for the 6 of October. It was very special and we are so excited to see so many blessings in Coca.

I ate these giant worms that they have here. I didn’t really like it, but the whole district ate one. haha and for P-day we went to the side of a river and played football in the jungle. It’s weird being with only elders in the district, but it’s all good.

Love you all, thanks for the letters, you’re all so awesome!!

Hermana Means

First sister to serve in the Amazon Jungle

Well like the title says, we have transfers, and I’m going to the Oriente! I’m going to the city of Rio Coca, the closest city to the Amazon. Until now, only Elders have gone to the Oriente, but after talking with the members and missionaries, President decided that it´s safe enough to send sisters. 4 sisters are going to the orient, two in Rio Coca and 2 in Lago Agria. I’ll be pretty isolated out there, but I’m pretty excited. I’ve heard crazy things from the elders since I’ve been assigned to go there. Every single person on the planet has told me how hot it is there. I mean it’s rainforest, so it’s hot and humid all the time, and they say you sweat buckets every day. Also a lot of elders have told me that they were fed monkey, and giant worms that they call Mayones. And a whole lot of other weird food. My food adventures have not ended haha.

Mom, don’t be too scared, it’s all good haha.

So we have the leadership council meeting on Thursday, so I’m going to stay in Quito until then and travel on Friday, because it’s like an 8 hour bus ride. My new companion will be Hermana Chavez! She’s from Peru, and seems really cool. She has only a change and a half less time in the mission than me. So that’s my crazy news for the week, I{ll be sending lots of pictures for sure!

We had a great week in Carabuela. We had a Sister´s conference this week, all about faith, it was awesome. Since the conference, I’ve thought a lot about what President Murphy said about doing our part and then trusting in the Lord. It reminded me a lot of something Elder Bednar said in the worldwide training broadcast in January. He talked about how the scriptures say that we can work miracles and baptize thousands, if the Lord gives it to us. He talked about how success in the mission field is given, if it is the will of God. What I especially loved is when he said that a missionary becomes truly consecrated when they just do the right thing, in the right time, in the right place, because it is the right thing to do, even when the fruits of our efforts are not initially evident, even when the Lord doesn’t “give” us the success that we want in the moment that we want it. So I’ve been thinking a lot about that, just doing the right thing. Missionary work is actually really simple when we have the Spirit and we just try to do the right thing. This has helped me to contact more people, to study better, to be more obedient, and to love people more.

An experience that we had this week taught me even more about just doing our best and then letting God work His miracles. On Friday, we arrived at the house of a man that we had contacted a few days earlier. I was really excited to teach him because we had been praying to find new investigators but we were having difficulties. We start the lesson and everything, when suddenly a few of his friends showed up to cook a dinner for a party that they were going to host, and it all just went downhill from there and we weren´t able to teach him, and he told us to come back next week. As we left the appointment, I complained to my companion “Why is there always so much opposition when all we want to do is teach a 20 minute lesson to someone about the true and living church of God?” As we were leaving and walking down the road, a young man crossed our path and we started to contact him. He told us we could come to his house and teach him right then, so we followed him to his house, and taught him about the Restoration and the Book of Mormon. He had so many questions and such a sincere desire to learn more, to read the book of Mormon, to be baptized, and to attend church. As we left the appointment, my companion told me “and that’s why there is opposition in all things.” I realized that I had been so worried about doing what I wanted to do, and teaching who I wanted to teach, and saying what I wanted to say, that I didn’t recognize that the Spirit was guiding us and giving us opportunities to teach the people that the Lord wants us to teach, in the perfect moment. Two days later the young man attended church with us on Sunday, and liked it a lot. I’ve realized that we just have to try our best, and the Lord will guide us to those who are ready and willing to accept the Gospel of Christ.

Just finished Helaman in the Book of Mormon. The faith of Nephi is so inspiring, because he had so much faith, and his motives were so pure that he could ask anything and it was given to him. Imagine that!! I want to be like that!! Be an instrument of faith in the Lord´s hands.

Love you all,
Hermana Means

Week 59 – Struggle & Comfort

So things are awesome, we’re seeing more and more miracles everyday. Keeping up with a positive attitude even when things are difficult.

So a lot of good food this week (finally) Our investigators invited us to eat lunch with them and we helped them grill chicken and corn on the cob with salad and lemonade. They are so great. Today we went to Sister Marlow’s house. She’s from Texas but lives in Otavalo and she made us American food, she’s the best. We played volleyball at her house and she told us all kinds of stories about her conversion.

I was feeling pretty discouraged this week, thinking about all of the people that we have been teaching that haven’t been baptized. I feel like in these last few changes I have been trying so hard to be a good missionary. I’ve been trying to be more obedient, my studies have been much more significant, I feel like my teaching has improved and I’m focused even more on the doctrine of Christ and the Book of Mormon. Yet out of all of the hundreds of people that we have talked with or taught, only three have been baptized. Anyways I let all of these negative thoughts interfere with my week and it was pretty rough. But I was also praying and praying for comfort and for more faith, but didn’t really feel anything. I thought about all of the times that the Lord has comforted his servants in the Book of Mormon, such as Alma, Nephi, and Samuel, but I felt like I wasn’t getting any of those feelings of comfort or encouragement. However, in church yesterday I received wonderful impression from the Lord that increased my faith and reminded me that all is well. There is a part in the book “Our Search for Happiness” by M. Russell Ballard that I love. While talking about Joseph Smith’s desire to receive more revelation from God and know that he had been forgiven of his sins and the subsequent appearance of the Angel Moroni, Elder Ballard said the following “And instead of simply telling him that all was well and that God still loved him, Moroni came to put Joseph to work.”

And I feel like the Lord did the same with me. In addition to comforting me, the Lord gave me a great desire to work even harder and repent for my lack of faith.

I have realized throughout my mission that lots of times I’m praying for answers, and the answers don’t come until I’m in church on Sunday. Even though I don’t understand what the teachers are saying, because everything is in Quichua, I always leave with more answers and more revelation from God. The church really is a sacred place, and if we let it be, an opportunity to learn so much more.

We actually saw many great things happening this week. Zulema has really been a gift from the Lord. We have only had the chance to meet with her three times, but she told us that she has prayed, read in the Book of Mormon, and knows that this church is true. We talked with her about the requirements for baptism, and together decided that the 30th of September would allow her time to learn and attend church. She is so humble and amazing. Conversion is a miracle!!

Love you all,
Hermana Means

Week 58 – Book of Mormon

We’ve literally seen so many miracles this week that I don’t even know where to start. Lately we’ve been praying to find people who are truly repentant and willing to change. We’ve had many people who have been attending to church, but many still haven’t had a true desire to repent and to change. But this week I was determined to be guided by the Spirit to those who are being prepared by the Lord, and help those that we have already been teaching to change their lives and feel the need to repent.

I want to share a few of the experiences that we’ve had this week. We had found and taught a young family two weeks ago that were really receptive, and we decided to focus a lot on the Book of Mormon in the first lesson. The wife of the family had a strong desire to learn about baptism because she has never been baptized. So we gave her 2 Nephi 31 to read over the weekend. This past week we visited her, and she told us that she had read the chapter, had been praying, and even though she didn’t understand everything she read, she said she felt something very special. She had lots more questions about baptism and the Book of Mormon, and the lesson was very spiritual. She says that she wants to be baptized once she learns more, and we are going to put a baptismal date the next time we see her.

One of my favorite things in the mission is listening to investigators pray with real intent and sincerity. This week we had a very spiritual lesson with Hermana Arboleda about how to recognize the Holy Ghost. We used a lot of the scriptures that President sent us about recognizing the Spirit, and at the end of the lesson, we knelt down to pray with the whole family. Hermana Piedad prayed with such sincerity, asking for an answer, and even asking the Lord on what day she should get baptized. At the end of the prayer, the whole family got up, but Hermana Piedad stayed kneeling, with her eyes closed, listening for an answer for almost a minute. She said that she didn`t feel an answer in this moment, but said that she would continue praying like that until she receives an answer. This week her whole family attended church for the first time, and at the end of the meeting she said she felt something very special. We found another man this week, who said that he has been looking for how to get closer to God his whole life, but has never been able to know how, or what church to go to. He expressed his desires to change and be better, and to really live a Christlike life. His prayer at the end of the lesson was so sincere and we could hear how much he wants to change and be closer to God.

We also found a man who has been trying to fight his drinking addiction for 7 years, and said that he has been looking for a church to attend, because he knows that at this point, God is the only one who will be able to help hm stop drinking for good. We talked about the Atonement and repentance, and he said that this week he will come to church, and that he will start praying every day. Another man we found Saturday night said that the day before his wife and him officially separated, and that he has been praying and praying for a sign that God is listening to his prayers. We taught him about the Restoration, and about the power of the Book of mormon, and he told us there an answer to his prayer. The nest morning he showed up at church and stayed all three hours, and is anxious to learn more. He cried in the sacrament meeting when the Bishop talked about the importance of family, and I think he felt the Spirit very strongly. We found another man last night, who looked a little sketchy, with a huge beard and sunglasses, and smelled like beer, but I felt a huge impression to talk to him. We start talking, and he told us that he never talks about religion with people because he doesn’t believe in God, but he felt like he should listen to us. We start talking and literally every one of his question could be answered with the Book of Mormon, so we just start teaching out of the Book of Mormon like crazy. He started to confide in us that he had decided just a few days ago that he was going to commit suicide because he didn’t have a purpose in his life. But has he listened to us, and especially as he listened to the testimony of my companion and I about the Book of Mormon, he said that he felt a desire to read the Book of Mormon and try to find his purpose in the book, and pray to God for the first time in many years. It was so amazing and so spiritual. We have had so many experiences this week with finding people who are truly repentant and looking for answers! It has been such a blessing!

I love you all and thank you for your many letters, I read them all!!!
Hermana Means

Week 57 – Happy & Humble

So, I’m a little jealous of the food pics that Ali sends. I eat rice and potatoes every day. With tuna or sardines if I’m lucky. Or cuy (guinea pig). I’m starting to like guinea pig more, even though every time I eat it I think of the scene in Shrek where they are eating grilled rats. It looks about the same. The other day I ate a soup with cow feet. It’s like an oily soup with the foot of a cow in it. The foot has no meat, just ligaments and cartilage and fat. But I am so grateful that the people of Carabuela are willing to share with us, they are so kind and a very happy, humble people.

We had a good experience with Piedad. We shared two scriptures with her to help her recognize the Spirit. I shared one in Mosiah 5, where it talks about how the King Benjamin’s people changed in a way that they had no more desires to do evil. And my companion shared a scripture in Alma 32 about the seed growing. These two scriptures, along with the testimony of the Bishop, helped her to realize that the Spirit works little by little to change our hearts, and the desires of our souls. We helped her to recognize the changes that she’s experienced, and that the seed is indeed a good seed. Even though she is not ready for baptism, (she isn’t willing to accept tithing and keeping the Sabbath day Holy yet) she is changing and willing to continue until she feels that she has a testimony of the Book of Mormon.

So I was a little disappointed this week, because a lot of the baptismal dates that we had fell or got changed. We used a plan with these people, talked about the requirements, and have been teaching the lessons. But I’ve definitely realized that after all is said and done, if someone doesn’t have faith in Christ or a repentant heart, they aren’t ready for baptism. We have lots of investigators that are attending church, that have the lessons, and a desire to be baptized, but still haven’t shown that they have faith in Christ or want to repent. Or they are showing it, but very very slowly. We are patiently working with these individuals and families, and I’m trying to remind myself that it doesn’t matter if I’m there for their baptism or not, what matters is that I put forth my best effort in the part that I will play in their conversion.

I feel like even though the progress of the people in this sector is very slow, we are seeing miracles every day. The message of the Restoration really answers people’s prayers, and every time I teach people this message, my heart swells with gratitude. I have felt an even deeper appreciation for the plan of Salvation as I’ve been studying this week. We also had an activity as a district and contacted people in the mercado de Imbaya. Every single question that was asked focused on the Plan of Salvation, and I realized how much I take these eternal truths for granted. The answers in the Book of Mormon have been so normal to me all my life, yet they had a profound impact on every single person we talked to. I am so grateful for the letters everyone sends about their missionary experiences, it motivates me so much!!

Keep being awesome!! Love, Hermana Means

Week 56 – Good Experiences & Bad Haircuts

So we had the baptism of Atahualpa this week, he’s awesome! And yes, I cut bangs, it was a moment of weakness ok, but hey, you’re only in the mission once right? Mostly it was the language barrier and i didn’t realize she meant straight across bangs but yep. Anyways haha, don’t have lots of time, but I love missionary work and I just find myself marveling at every opportunity that the Lord blesses us with. And I was reading a talk from Elder Christofferson about how the Lord orchestrates everything, and that building the Kingdom of God is His work. We met a man in the street and sat down to teach him the lesson of the Restoration, and the first question he asked us was, “How can I know which church is true when there are so many? How can I get an answer from God?” And after explaining the Restoration of the gospel of our Savior, he couldn’t stop thanking us for teaching him,for helping him find answers. And afterwards I was just thinking wow, this message has so much power and it has nothing to do with us. We’re just two 20 year-olds who don`t know anything, yet the Lord uses us to change people’s lives and answer their fervent prayers. What have I done to deserve such an amazing opportunity?

Love you all
Hermana Means

Week 55 – Miracles in Carbuela

We are truly seeing miracles here in Carabuela. It’s like all of a sudden our investigators understand the importance of baptism and commandments, and the importance of church attendance. Every single one of the investigators with a baptismal date have more than one attendance in the month of July. We went from having no one attending to church to everyone attending church. And I really think a grand difference has been the Book of Mormon. I love this book just read it please.

I love a part of Preach my Gospel that says that if we help people understand the purpose and importance of the Book of Mormon, preaching the gospel becomes much easier, because we can teach directly from the book. We will no longer have just our words as a testimony of the gospel, but also the words of ancient and modern prophets. That is so powerful! We’ve seen how the Book of Mormon has helped those we teach to understand and want to live the doctrine of Christ. Even with our investigators that can`t read and don’t speak Spanish, we’ve been teaching from the Book of Mormon. The daughter reads the verses, which increases her own understanding of the doctrine, and then explains to her parents. Something that has really caught my attention lately is how simple the teachings in the Book of Mormon are. Sure, the language of the Book of Mormon can be a little tricky at first, but the teachings are so simple that even a child can understand it, like it says in Preach my Gospel. A child can easily understand that the word of God is like a seed that will grow in your heart (Alma 32), or the importance of a strong foundation when we build our lives around Christ (Helaman 5). We’ve shared these simple but powerful comparisons and other stories in the Book of Mormon to help our investigators understand and feel the richness of the gospel of our Savior.

Atahualpa is going to be baptized this week. The miracle with him is that his mother and older sister started to attend church as well. And Mariano, his older brother who is a recent convert, is supporting and helping him so much. Mariano has been reviewing the pamphlets that we give them with his brother over and over again to prepare him for his interview and help him understand. It’s like the most precious thing ever. His brother is so extraordinary, and I know that he will be a huge help in the retention of his brother. The ward is also super excited about missionary work and help us in every way possible. They are visiting with us, talking with and visiting our investigators even without us there. They are a huge help.

Things are just awesome here and I’m loving the Carbuela life!!! Love you all and thank you for all of the letters! I love the letters that come from the Lodi 1st ward, you are all so awesome!!

Hermana Means

Week 54 – Staying in Carabuela

So the mission is awesome. It was the week of transfers, but I`m staying for my fourth transfer in Carabuela! Hermana Pincay stays with me as well. I’m excited because we have lots of people progressing! Elder Morales, our district leader finished his mission and Elder Gonzalez left for the Rain Forest. So now we have all of Carabuela to ourselves again. Crazy.

So I think my favorite part of the mission is watching people discover spiritual truths for themselves, many of which I take for granted. One of our investigators with a baptismal date for this month, Piedad, was so excited to tell us what she had learned about faith and I just love it, seeing people fall in love with the Gospel of Christ!!

Well that’s about it folks!!

Love you all!!!

Week 53 – Just some photos

My golden girl, Sheila (holding the Book of Mormon)

At the Hospital for my companion’s appointment

“Feed my lambs”