Monday, November 24, 2014

Week Ten - Happy Birthday To My Dad (he's yet again turning 38!!!) and Happy Thanksgiving!!! 11/24/14

Happy Thanksgiving, Everyone!!!

Before I get started with another fantastic weekly update to kick off my third week here in Ecuador, I just wanted to give a shout-out to my fantastic dad, whose birthday was on the 22nd. He's turning "38" (again... Hahahaha), so I just wanted to say love you, Dad, and don't get too old all at once! ;)

SO much more Spiritual moments that I've been able to have here, but the one that takes the cake this week was the opportunity that I had to travel once more back to Guayaquil for a trip to the Temple, and a Zones Conference. The devotional that our Mission President, Presidente Riggins, gave was one that literally shook me in a way that Elder Jeffrey R. Holland does each and every General Conference. During his devotional, he pulled up a poll that each of us had the opportunity of taking earlier during our missions here. The poll displayed how each of us, as missionaries and companionships, were not NEARLY taking enough time to study the Doctrine, studying from Preach My Gospel, or with our Companions. And his words for us were (he spoke this in Español, but I'll translate it): "If we're not studying the Doctrine, what are we doing? If we're not taking up our time, studying the material that we should be studying to teach to our investigators (and so many others in our missions), then what exactly is it that we are spending our time doing?!?" 

 I just recently received some mail from the Taylor family, and seeing all those kids wish me luck on my mission makes me feel really glad to have so many people supporting me.

My Spanish is getting better each and every day, the food here is AWESOME, and the culture is different in a humble, unique, amazing way. We have several investigators, but right now, only one has been truly progressing. Her name is Carmen Escobar, she's 47, she's a shopowner and a less-active Catholic, and is REALLY interested in the Gospel. But, she won't go to Church, because she feels that she can't. This feels so exciting and fantastic, having the opportunity to share the Gospel with people like Hermana Carmen.

I love all of you, and thank you again for all the love and support for my serving a mission!

Elder Conner Duane Parke

Wednesday, November 19, 2014


Bueeeeeeeeenos Dias, Familia y Amigos, from the ever-amazing, extremely humbling, always-toasty Babahoyo, Ecuador!!! Today marks my second week here, and I couldn't be more grateful to have the opportunity to be doing the Lord's work in such a fantastic city. The people here are just the most humble, selfless, amazing people that I have ever had the privilege of meeting. I'm almost jealous from how nice the people here are, despite this place being so... Simplistic, I guess you could say.

Allow me to take this time to talk about the showers that they have here: The showers here (at least, the ones we have in our apartment) have two settings - Cold... And colder, hahahaha! However, I've realized this past week that a cold shower is much more a blessing than a burden to have. At first, it does send a good chill down your spine, but a guy like me has come to find out just how stress-relieving a cold shower can be, after waking up each day for my mission. So just remember, if you ever are feeling more stress than you can imagine (from, for example, serving a mission, hahaha), a cold shower every morning will surprisingly do you a TON of wonders.

This past week, I've had the privilege of being a part of a lot of really spiritual moments. I got to participate in a skit with the rest of my district for a Talent Show, I got to bear my testimony to this family about the role of Prayer (especially in my mission), and I got to give my first blessing in COMPLETE Spanish. Granted, I butchered the blessing (and felt kinda awful about it), but I still feel grateful that my Heavenly Father, my Savior, and my Trainer all have the confidence and trust in me to do fantastic things like that, in the Lord's name, even though I've only been here in the mission field for only just over a week.

May God be with all of you until I have the privilege of speaking again next week (on my next P-Day, hopefully), and thank you all so much for the love and support that I have easily been able to feel while serving here in Ecuador.

Elder Conner Duane Parke

Also, the package we had the chance to converse about last week "just so happened" to arrive in the haul the very next day. I'll have you know that I inhaled the Pringles (after sharing them with my trainer, of course), and I gave the Pez as a gift to this fantastic hermana in the ward we're assigned to, Hermana Geoconda. I told her to consider it as a gift from the United States, haha!

I feel like I'm going to forget to tell you guys this, so I'll just say it now: I ATE MY FIRST FRIED EGG IN YEARS!!! A Member Family invited us over to their home for Lunch, and they served us rice (of course, haha), beans, and a fried egg. Obviously I was going to feel horrible if I didn't eat it, and my trainer refused to let me slide it onto his plate, so I just said to heck with it, and bottoms up.

There isn't a single day - heck, there isn't a single hour - that goes by here, that I'm not thinking about each of you guys back at home. I miss all of you guys more than absolutely anything, but I know (and I'm pretty sure I've begun to grow a testimony about) that I'm supposed to be here. I've had times here, already, where when I look at your guys' picture, I've come on the verge of crying from hearing in my head of each of you guys, AND my Savior, and my Heavenly Father, all figuratively saying to me in my mind: "I'm proud of you." It's been tough, and I know that it'll only get more tough. But I'm gonna give it my all, and then keep going.

Monday, November 10, 2014

WEEK EIGHT!!! 11/10/14


Hola Familia y Amigos de mi distrito maravilloso en Ecuador! Específicamente, la ciudad de Babahoyo!

Today was my first P-Day in the wondrous, extremely humble city of Babahoyo! Even though the Spanish here is WAY different than in the Mexico CCM, I still enjoy each and every minute that I get teaching, and preaching, and learning here. Now, onto answering some questions.

My trainer, Elder Aguilar (shown in some pictures he took of us), is from Honduras, and he's AWESOME!!! I feel extremely lucky to have him, and not just because he already knows how to speak English (in addition to his native language of Español). He's taught me SO much already, and I'm so grateful for the amount that he gives me each and every day that he is my companion and trainer.

The food here is really interesting, but really delicious. Almost every dish (if it isn't a delicious soup, I've noticed), is served with LOTS of rice. The first time my trainer took me to eat at a member's house, I could hardly put a dent in the plate, because of how much amazing food they gave us, along with a TON of rice. For those that plan on visiting Ecuador, just know that almost EVERYTHING that you will get the chance to eat here comes with a hefty, yet delicious serving of white rice.

Any mail that gets sent to me will take AT LEAST 2 weeks to get here, I learned. I guess that's why they call it "Snail Mail" in the Mission, haha! Any mail that gets sent to the Mexico CCM with my name on it will have to be delivered here to my Mission President by missionaries preparing to serve here. The time for packages will vary, because they will have to be re-directed from Mexico to Ecuador. Also, concerning packages, if they weigh too much, then they will have to go through Customs before I can retrieve any of them. 

On my first week here, my trainer, Elder Aguilar, took me grocery shopping. There, I bought Frosted Flakes (for Breakfast), Orange Juice (Gotta have that Vitamin C), White Rice (a must-have in Ecuador), Tuna, and supplies for sandwiches - specifically, I bought bread, lunch meat, queso (Mozzarella), Mustard, and Mayonnaise. All in all, I spent a beautiful $20 on groceries for my first week.

There are quite a lot of mosquitoes and other little buggers around here, but thanks to my careful habit of applying Bug Repellent every day, I haven't been bitten yet! Good thing too, because the Enfermeras (the Hermanas in charge of the Medical Clinic for our Mission) let all of us Gringos know that the Mosquitoes here do carry the disease Dengue, which is beyond awful, and will leave you bed-ridden for a whole WEEK with some of the most pain that you will ever have the misfortune of.

If you plan on doing a lot of walking in the streets here in Ecuador, be sure to pack some REALLY comfortable, durable shoes, I learned. The streets here are nowhere near as smoothly paved and clean as the ones in the United States. Here in Babahoyo, especially, because this is one of the more poor cities in my mission, there's TONS of stores, vendors, and trash. 

The weather here is pretty consistent, humidity and all. I'm not gonna lie when I say that I sweat a TON through my shirts and clothes each day that I'm out proselyting. Despite my efforts to apply lots of deodorant, as well as other precautions that I've tried taking, but there's just no way to dodge the heat here, unless you're practically used to living in this humidity and heat without sweating as much as I do, haha!

For my first week here, I've literally had ZERO time to personally study my Spanish/Castellaño, because we've had LOTS of appointments with members and investigators. I've had a couple of chances to try out my Spanish through teaching and some practice with my trainer, but my Spanish here is NOWHERE NEAR as good as it was in the Mexico City CCM. I need a lot more practice, a lot more time, and to take the time to understand that, even though I am here to proselyte, I am also here to learn. Elder Jeffrey R. Holland of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles stated: "The first convert that you will ever have as a Missionary for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints is yourself."

I love each and every one that has shown their love and support for my serving a mission, friends and family alike. I couldn't be more grateful for the opportunity that I have been given to serve here, and I pray each and every day for how grateful I am to be on this mission, and devote this time to my Lord and Savior.

Saturday, November 8, 2014

I'M IN ECUADOR!!!! 11/5/14

Nov. 5, 2014

Hi, Mom, Dad, and Everyone at home! I just wanted to write you a late-night e-mail letting you guys know that I'm in Ecuador!!! Specifically, Babahoyo (I think that's how it's spelt). My companion said it would be okay if I wrote to you guys tomorrow, but I just wanted to let you guys know that I'm safe, I'm here, and I'm ready to have the toughest, greatest time of my life! I love you all!!!!!!!
Elder Conner Duane Parke

Monday, November 3, 2014

Awesome Missionaries

FROM: Robert and Sue Jones

My Husband and I are Senior Missionaries at the Mexico MTC.
We have enjoyed getting to know and love your wonderful Missionaries.
We are going to miss them!

Saturday, November 1, 2014

WEEK 6 10/30/14

Hey Mom (and Dad), how are things??? 

It's my final P-Day here, and then I fly off to Ecuador (technically Colombia THEN Ecuador) on Monday night, at 9:30 here time. I'm so nervous, but I'm WAY more excited than absolutely ANYTHING!!! I'm really going to miss it here, with the food, beds, and education concerning the Spanish Language all pretty much handed to me (and every other missionary here) on some silver platters. However, I do believe that the time has come for my mission to TRULY begin...

I've been more busy than I have EVER been in my whole life, so I didn't really think about taking that many pictures this week (perdóname AKA forgive me >.<). BUT, I did get a haircut this morning, so I'll be sure to send a picture or two of that, and I've pretty much got that mindset that I'm ready to preach to the good people of Ecuador!!! Sure it's gonna be a WORLD of difference there than here, but I know in my heart that no matter how hard it gets, and no matter what or how many crazy trials get thrown my way, I know that I've been called of God to be out here, serving as a representative of my Savior Jesus Christ. Even after my mission, I still won't feel like I've shown my thanks enough for His atoning for my sins, in order to give me the exceptional life that I have today.

I haven't gotten the cards you guys sent me yet, but no worries, because I still feel totally psyched and ready to leave the high walls of the Mexico MTC and have a BLAST teaching and preaching in the Ecuador Guayaquil North Mission. Even though I've come to absolutely love it here, for all that it's had to offer me for these past six weeks, I still feel and understand that it's time for me to get out there, and try my hardest to convert others by converting myself in the process.

 I love all of you guys, and I'm not gonna lie, that this has been the most difficult 6 weeks of my entire life. I have no doubts that it'll only get trickier and more complicated from this point on... For me, and for those that I care most about AKA you guys. May the Spirit, God's Love, and all His blessings He has to offer be with each and every one of you, and I'll make sure to pray for you guys every day I'm gone. Give everyone in the ward my best from here in Mexico (and in a week, Ecuador), and let 'em know I can't wait to come home with some epic Mission Stories. Anyway, I love you guys, and I can't wait to e-mail you guys again real soon!!!