One of the things I worry about out here is that, because my days and weeks are so repetitive, I am going to reach a point where I don’t have anything new or exciting to share with all of you. I mean new things happen all the time, but the core structure of my days stays the same. I can put this worry aside for now because a lot of things happened this week that I want to write about. (What I’m also saying is that if there’s anything you would like to hear about, please, please SEND ME AN EMAIL AND ASK!)
Anyway, the things that happened this week just so happen to encompass 2 of the most sensitive moments that I have experienced this far in my mission. These things have also served to solify even further in my brain, why I’m here and why I’m going to continue pressing forward. You already know that we teach a lot of different kinds of people here in Ecuador. Some people are old, some are young, some are very interested in our message (see last week’s letter about “change”), some are not, but ALL OF THEM are unique and all of them bring their own special personalities into the process of teaching. I think I’ve already mentioned the Lopez family before in a previous letter, but they are some of the people who are undoubtedly unique and bless my life with their special personalities.
We visit the Lopez family frequently - but not too frequently because that becomes weird. They’re immigrants from Bogota Colombia and they haven’t forgotten their home country or its delicious recipes. If we used attendance sheets when we teach (which we don’t) theirs would read: 1) Mauricio, father, 2) Veronica, mother, 3) Lady, oldest daughter, 4) Natalia, youngest daughter and 5) Dylan, first child of Lady who’s about 6 years old. I really enjoy teaching this family because there’s just something different about them. They ask a lot of really poignant questions which transform the teaching environment into an open discussion with everyone present sharing a common desire to find the truth and ways to better their lives. Lady is ready to be baptized, she’s made the changes and has conviction. Now we’re just trying to catch up the rest of the family so that we can plan one baptismal service and have it be extra special. AND THEY’RE GETTING THERE! We were in their home this past Tuesday to share a message and answer their questions. When we finished, Hermana Veronica invited us all to the table to share in some Colombian chorizo (YUM!). While we were eating, she became really emotional and opened up, telling us that she’s feeling a peace and unity in her home that she’s never experienced before we started coming to visit. At this moment, I became really emotional and confessed that one of the reasons I love coming to visit them is because it’s the closest I’ve felt to a real family-type relationship since I left my home in California some 5 months ago. The whole evening made us really happy and thankful to be alive on the planet Earth. It was really special moment.
Another experience I had this week that was really special was Thursday night when we went to the farewell party of a young man named Gabriel who is leaving on his mission next week (Feb 6). About 35 members of the church attended and the family organized it. They hosted an open mic time where close friends and family of Gabriel were invited to say whatever they were thinking or feeling about his impending departure. Of course, you can imagine how this evening got really weepy, really fast. It was an interesting perspective for me, having been in the exact same spot as Gabriel only 5 short months ago. It touched me truthfully. It felt like I was part of something bigger than just myself, alone, here in Ecuador…it felt like I was part of his family. When the mic came to me, I shared a short thought and some advice, of course. But the moment that touched me most came from Gabriel’s little sister. When she stood up, I was immediately transported back to the night before I left, when my family did the same thing, in a smaller setting. I felt like my family was here with me, for just a moment. I am so thankful to have been invited to share in these special, tender moments with these families.
These experiences have me reflecting on the importance of family. Family really is the only place where you can encounter people who love you without agenda. And I shouldn’t even have to say that, of course, the definition of family can extend beyond the lines drawn by blood. Family is a beautiful thing and it is THE thing. Love your family! There will always be things that pull us away from our families, situations that are hard and tear-filled. However, after this night with Gabriel, I’ve realized that these hard situations also serve to create delightfully happy, tear-filled ones when the time apart comes to an end. In the most sincere way I can say, I look forward to crying with all of you in August 2018. Have an amazing week, everyone!
Until next time, with affection,
Other selected tidbits:
- Happy birthday, mom! I am so happy you are getting this letter on your actual birthday! I hope you have a moment or two just to relax and take a mental break today. I’m unbelievably sad I’m not there to help make that happen or to tell you, in person, how much I love you. But let me tell you something that happened this week. So people NEVER let us help them with service. And it’s not like we ask blindly, we look hard for ways to help and everyone always says no! So this week I heard that it was the birthday of a mom in our ward, Hermana Villareal. She is the same mom who says goodbye to her missionary son next Monday. So we were over on Thursday for lunch, answering questions about the mission, and eating delicious chicken soup. Hermana Villareal happened to have a cold and you could tell she wasn’t feeling well. So, when we finished eating lunch, I got up and started doing the dishes. At first she refused and told “no, don’t, I’ve got it taken care of”. But I told her it was my mom’s birthday this coming Monday and, because I wasn’t going to be able to do anything for her (you), I really wanted to do this small act of service for her. And she let me! And there was even a big pile of dishes from breakfast that I did as well! When she came in and saw everything done, she said thank you really sincerely, and I could tell she was relieved that she could go and sit down for a while. I felt really great after doing this and it helped me even more knowing that, even though I can’t help you right now, I could help someone. So, Happy Birthday, Mom!
- We got to go to the volcano (Volcan Chiles)! It was the coolest thing ever, I can’t even begin to express. The pictures tell the story much better than I ever could, but it was amazing. You know that soundtrack that they have in the Matterhorn? Well, it’s real! The mountain made the exact same noise. I was so happy! And look at the wild llamas, Natty!!! And the natural, sulphur lakes that were green.
- The other big event of the week is that the elders of the south bought a goose. Oh my goodness, where to begin? They went to this area for the whole day that was like 2 hours away. And I guess when they were waiting for the bus they saw a guy with geese and bought one. Now missionaries aren’t supposed to have geese, so they called President Murphy to repent and he laughed and said that they either had to let it grow big enough that we could all eat it (food not a pet) or they had to give it away. The plan, at first, was to grow it but it got super, super annoying with chirping and poop so they gave it away yesterday to Hermana Fatima (last week’s letter). El gonzo cost $5 dollars and his name is Moroni. [Does anyone need a reminder these are 18 and 19-year old young men? :)]
- I found out that I LOVE this Colombian soup called Ajiaco. It’s a delicious chicken soup. You put cream in it to taste. Very warm, very good.
- This week I was looking around for some shoes and a ward member laughed at me and said "su talla no existe aquì" - basically your shoes don’t exist here.
- We go to Ibarra on Friday for a zone meeting and Sunday is cambios! [Incidentally - Adam’s former companion from Esmeraldas, Elder Fernandez, goes home with this change. So long Elder Fernandez, thanks for helping Adam acclimate to Ecuador!) It should be a good week. I will talk to you all soon. I think of you every single day and pray for you all at least 3 times a day. Have an amazing night tonight celebrating with mom!!!!!!
- ps the church is true