Monday, December 29, 2014

Week 15 - Happy Heat-filled Holidays

Dear Mom,

First of all, you have NO idea how relieving and a blessing it was to see you guys last Thursday. That was by far the greatest blessing that I have received so far on my mission was that one video call. I feel a little bad that my next video call won't be for another 150 days, but I still look forward to it, as well the opportunity that I get to write to you guys each week. This past week was literally like cashing in all of my trials and hardships that I have had so far, in exchange for the fantastic blessings that came with last week. ESPECIALLY the chance I got to actually see and talk to all of you guys since 3 months ago. :D

Happy Heat-filled Holidays from the center of the Earth itself, hahaha! This week literally blew by like a snowstorm (metaphorical of course, being in Ecuador), but here we are, the last blog entry of the year. This week's come with a TON of blessings that I couldn't have been happier to receive, including some FANTASTIC Christmas food, and a Video Call to my family. I know that it's only going to get tougher from now on, but I think I got what it takes to buckle down and enjoy the extremely bumpy ride.

So, this past week, I was able to Christmas Caroling with the other members of my zone (by the name of Kennedy) here in Guayaquil, and boy was it HOT! There is a really legitimate reason why normal people don't try to go knocking on people's doors, singing, in the middle of the blistering heat of Summer in the States, because WOW, was it baking down here! On top of that, I can't tell how far or how long we walked, but my dogs were barking after that (The Office quote... How I miss that show, hahaha). I guess it was worth it, to see the smiling faces of the people we sang to, in addition to the fantastically amazing Video Call that I was able to have with my family afterwards.

A couple days before Christmas, we had a Mission Field Reunion, which may I remind you consists of around 260 missionaries, all coming together from any and all parts of our Mission Field to our Stake Center here in Guayaquil. Surprisingly, they still had enough food for me to have 3 plates full of Mashed Potatoes, Turkey, Stuffing, and Peas&Carrots... Not to mention dessert!! I have to say, this mission may come with a long-haul truckload of trials and hardships, but in exchange for the opportunity to teach people about the Everlasting Restored Gospel of Jesus Christ, as well as experience fantastic occasions like this, it's more than worth it to be here, and to go through anything and everything that gets thrown in my way, and in my face. I believe that my personal testimony of this Gospel has grown TENFOLD since I first started my mission, and I owe it all to these very special past three months. I love all of you so much, and I can't wait to write to you all again in 2015! Happy Holidays, and Happy New Year!!!

Con Sinceridad,
Elder Conner Duane Parke

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Week 14 - Green Christmas (Get it? Because it's green here, not white... Nevermind

Merry 88-degrees-fahrenheit Christmas!!! Before I begin with the blog entry, I just wanted to say that I am BEYOND excited to be able to Skype home this week!!! Honestly, these past 7 weeks have felt more like 77... It's been slow as molasses, and as discouraging as dropping an ice cream cone. Despite both me and my new trainer's efforts to hasten the work in our new area, it's been excruciatingly tough this past week. So in other words, we could really use a break as grand and fantastic as a Skype call home to our families.

So just a brief recap of this past week, last Monday was my extremely sudden Transfer Day, so I'm not proselyting in Babahoyo with Elder Aguilar as my trainer anymore. I'm now proselyting in Guayaquil with my new trainer, Elder Pagoada (from Honduras, and has 14 months in his mission, just like my other trainer). Like I mentioned last week, he is also the Zone Leader, and shares that title with his "other companion", Elder Tingey (from Las Vegas, who has 11 months in his mission). According to Elder Tingey's new companion, Elder Martinez (who is from Puerto Rico and has 17 months in his mission, but is just a regular missionary like me),  it's this unique idea by Mission President Riggins to pair up a trainee (like me) or any other normal missionary with a Zone Leader, and have that Zone Leader still have a Co-Zone Leader, in addition to his companion or trainee. It's confusing, I know, and it barely makes sense to me too, even though I'm the one participating in it... My point is I'm in Guayaquil now, not Babahoyo, and have a new trainer, who is also our Zone Leader, even though I'm not a Zone Leader, and just a trainee (for now, haha).
Like I said, this week has been UNBELIEVABLY slow, in terms of the time going by, and in terms of our efforts to hasten the work. Yesterday was especially slow, because they had this gigantic futbol (soccer) game between the two biggest teams in Ecuador, Barcelona and Emelec. This made it nearly impossible for us to contact, or even visit any of our appointments. Then again, yesterday was a day that, in Ecuador, is almost more anticipated than Christmas. So basically, yesterday was like trying to go proselyting during the Super Bowl, Fiesta Bowl, and the World Series combined into one, in terms of the United States. I just hope we can have a little more of a chance to teach in the future, especially because last week was both my trainer's and my first week in this sector (I came from Babahoyo, and my trainer came from another city in Ecuador, called Ventanas).

The people here aren't as nice and humble as the ones in Babahoyo, but at the same time, it's so much greener and the food is so much nicer (looking), especially because there are TONS of Cangrejals (Seafood Restaurants that specialize in cooking Cangrejos, or Crabs) here. However, I can't go to any of them, because Elder Pagoada is allergic to Shellfish, so that's a bummer for the both of us, especially here, haha. Even so, it's REALLY pretty here, and there are plenty of bright, new opportunities to find new people to teach, and have some awesome new adventures.

Because it's technically Christmas, I want to take this time to give some super specific shout-outs. Thanks SO much for the love and support from my family, especially my parents, that I'm privileged to have for my serving on a mission, and I can't wait to see and talk to them when I Skype Call home. I want to give a shout-out to Elder Steve Siddoway, my Young Men's Leader, and the boss of the boss of my old boss of my old job (try saying that 5 times fast), as well as his family, for the fantastic Christmas card that they sent me. I want to give a shout-out, yet again, to my old home teaching families, especially those cute kids of theirs that I was glad to be able to teach before I go. It's going to blow my mind the next time I see those kids, and how much they've grown (physically and spiritually).Thank you so much, again, for everyone, for the love and support that I am able to feel, even if I am here on my mission in Ecuador. I wish you all a Merry Christmas, and can't wait to write again and hear about all the awesome news next week. May God be with you all!!!

Con Sinceridad,
Elder Conner Duane Parke

Monday, December 15, 2014

week 13!!!! IM IN GUAYAQUIL!!! 12/11/14

I think I am dreaming. Can someone pinch me and wake me up from this insane past week? No? Well, guess I should just go ahead and make an update on how things have been this past sluggish, hectic, instigating, mystifying week. What is goin' on, everyone? Week 6 is now underway, and let me just start with how I'm not in Kansas (I mean Babahoyo) anymore... I'm now in Guayaquil!!!

Effective this very morning, I got transferred from my zone in Babahoyo to one of the three (I think it's three. Or maybe four) zones here in the great big city of Guayaquil! I got a completely new trainer, new district, new zone, and all new possibilities for all new adventures! Also, I'm really not sure how this works right now, but I think I'm in a trio (or a quad. I don't know, it's kinda weird). Obviously, I was kinda sad to leave the friends that I made out of my old trainer, district, and zone, but the will of God works in very unique, and usually very fantastic ways. I'm really gonna miss the friends that I made out of the members, as well, and they said that they're gonna miss me a ton, too. But I get the feeling that my time in Babahoyo is only done for now, and I'll be back eventually.

Starting literally after I finished e-mailing last week on my P-Day, my trainer and I were told to swap houses with some other elders in our zone. After that, our appointments that we made started to fall through, so we had the toughest time finding anyone to teach and preach to. It really took a toll on our faith, especially because not even our Less Actives (which we had a lot of in our area) weren't even able to follow through with our appointments anymore. But, my trainer kept telling me that this is just a bump in the road, and we just have to remain faithful and true to why we were there, and why the Lord saw it fit that we be tested a little, before we have some greater success later on. And just when I thought I was beginning to make progress again with learning the Spanish and having the motivation to get out there and teach alongside my fantastic trainer, I got transferred. -_-*

In between today (my being transferred) and moving into our new house last Monday, we had even more training in Milagro, and so we had to take buses yet again in order to get there and back. On the first bus I rode on, I was so tired that I forgot to take my wallet and put it from my hand into my pocket. So I ended up falling asleep, dropping my wallet on the bus, and forgetting it as we got off. Which is absolutely fantastic, considering it had my mission debit card, my personal debit card, $20 in cash, and my Medical Insurance card that I was issued all in it. 

I love all of you, and I'm so very thankful for the love, the support, for the prayers, and for the presence of the Spirit that I have been able to have, thanks to everyone. I was able to receive the Christmas Card from the Siddoway family last Friday, and it really gave me something to smile about when I needed it most. May God and His Spirit be with each of you to help guide you, protect you, comfort you, and love you in this wonderful life he has blessed us with.

Con Amor (Love),
Elder Conner Duane Parke

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Week 12!!! "I debated with a Evangelical Pastor... I think I won" 12/8/14

Does anybody else feel like this week has gone by a LOT slower than the others? ... No? Just me? Huh, must be all the trials... Anyway, what is up, everyone?! Week 5 is now underway, and lemme just say that I could really use a nap right now, hahahahaha!

I learned that I'm no longer progressing as quickly and efficiently with my Spanish as I need to and should be, which is beyond infuriating. As one of the results, I made my District Leader, Elder Gomez (who's from Colombia), really irritated when I called in to report about how our day went one night. I honestly nearly cried myself to sleep that night from how mad and sad I was about my Spanish... Until my Trainer, Elder Aguilar (who's from Honduras and is on the 15th month of his mission) let me know that not only is feeling like that normal, but that he's there for me. Heh, it's funny, because a lot of my friends in the CCM/MTC either got Latinos Nuevos Compañeros (Newbie Latino Companions), or Gringo/a Entrenadores/as (English-Speaking Trainers). I feel really unfairly blessed that I have Elder Aguilar as my trainer, because he's Spanish-Speaking (being from Honduras and all), and he knows how to speak English pretty well already. He's helped me so much on my mission, physically, emotionally, and spiritually. I can only hope that when you are given the opportunity to serve a mission that you are able to have a trainer as fantastic as the one that I have been blessed to have help me become a greater servant and representative of the Lord.

Last Tuesday, my companion and I got the chance to have an appointment with this pastor of the Evangelical church. He had a really good time teaching us how we can't get baptized until we have that true, sincere desire to do so in our hearts. He was such a good pastor that he even read AND STUDIED both the Bible and the Book of Mormon, covers to covers (according to his words). Yet, he had the nerves to inform us that we are deniers of the truth, when all we did was share with him how the TRUE Church, as told in the Bible (in Ephesians 4, Matthew 10, and Hebrews 1, to be exact) has a very specific structure (*cough* one prophet and twelve apostles *cough*). Finally, after an hour of conversing with this insightful elderly pastor, he let us know that we outstayed our welcome, and it was time that we leave his humble abode.

In Quevedo, we were able to sit in a chapel for training from a member of the Presidency of America Sur (South America), Región Norteoíste (Northwest Region). It was a TON of doctrine that we were only given the opportunity of 5 hours to be able to sit and listen to and take notes of (10:00 AM to 3:00 PM). It was, from what I was able to get out of it (thanks to my Spanish Skills), about the Word of God, and the voice of God is "silent", making it EXTREMELY crucial for us, as missionaries of this Church, as Representatives of Jesus Christ, and as Messengers of God, that we need to listen with all of our hearts and all of our might, and with all of our Faith, in order to interpret through the promptings of the Holy Ghost what we need to say, how we need to say it, and what exactly it is that we need to do, in order to help each of these people come unto Christ.

This mission has undeniably been the toughest moments of my entire life, but it's through these tough times that I've been able to learn so much, in order to be the worthy husband and father that I need to become for my future family, in addition to what I need to know to help others come closer to Christ. I testify that our missions are one of the hardest, most difficult, most wonderful things that we can ever choose to do in this life on Earth. My testimony in this Church and its teachings has grown SO much from the challenges and trials that I have had placed in my path. But I know that my Heavenly Father loves me, and He loves each of His children. That is why He has given me and approximately 80,000 other missionaries the opportunity to be called of God to help others return to live with Him, through the divine messages that we are able to share with others all around the world.

I'm so thankful for the love and support that all of you have given me the chance to feel as I continue to serve on my mission here in Ecuador, and I'm so thankful for the ways that my Heavenly Father has blessed me in exchange for serving Him for these 2 years. I can't wait to share more of what I learned and experienced next week, but until then, may God's love be with all of you, for we are all children of God.

Élder Conner Duane Parké

Saturday, December 6, 2014

Week Eleven! 12/1/14

Hola, familia y amigos! Two days from today marks my entire first month, down here in Ecuador! Woo, I haven't died yet! Only 21 more to go!

(1) The mail I get here will only take a minimum of two weeks, not three. But, it will still take longer to get here, if it's been addressed to Mexico City, seeing as I am not there anymore. (2) The Spanish here, despite it being a combination of fairly fast Spanish with an Italian accent twist to it, has been surprisingly easy for me to be picking up, so far. I mean, I still need plenty of work, but my Spanish here is not as extremely awful as I think it is, haha. (3) English is not as scarce and futile here as I initially thought. Granted, (Ecuadorian) Spanish is obviously the primary language used here, the kids and some of the people in my ward like to test my abilities to translate and teach them Inglés. Which I find extremely fun, and makes me glad that I know English, hahahaha. (4) The people here are SO humble, in my opinion, because they are willing to cook for us, do our laundry, and put up with my mediocre Spanish skills. Also, the strangers here are a lot more welcoming in the fact that they say "Good morning (Buenos Días)" back to us when we do it. Try doing that in the US, hahahaha! But jokes aside, these are people that live in Cement Floor, Tin Roofed, and non-air-conditioned houses, when it can get as hot as 115 degrees here, despite the rain coming in the future. I salute these people for their hospitality.

 I couldn't be more grateful for my companion/trainer, and for the love and support that he has shown me. 

 I love you all, and can't wait to report on what more this fantastic calling and opportunity has given me the chance to experience. Until then, God be with all of you!

Elder Conner Duane Parke