Sunday, March 29, 2015

WEEK 27!!!

Hola Queridos Amigos y Amigas! Elder "Poderoso" Parke with yet another INSANE weekly update. Before I forget, let me just start with how, finally, FINALLY, our bishop/obispo not only "smiled", but he asked us if there was anything he (or the Ward Council) could do to help US. I was a bit dumbstruck when Obispo Quiroz asked us this, because NEVER (up until last Saturday) had he asked us in Ward Council if there was anything that they can do to help us. Obviously, this deserves explanation, and I will get to that, but I also just wanted to say really quickly... HAPPY 6 MONTHS/MESES!!!! That's right, I am officially 1/4 done Hastening The Work, effective tomorrow. How time flies, especially when you are doing the Lord's Great and Marvelous Work.

So, before Elder Alcantara was my companion, I had Elder Alfaro (from Costa Rica. I'll send pictures of both Elder Alfaro and Elder Alcantara next week when I have a little more time). When Elder Alfaro was my companion, we were focused on helping our Less Active Members and Recent Converts, but not as focused as we were in finding New Investigators and Baptizing. The reason being that the "desires" of our Zone Leaders (which were SUPPOSEDLY the desires of Presidente Riggins) were for us to find, find, find, and baptize, baptize, baptize. Too bad that neither Elder Alfaro nor I noticed that this was absolutely NOT the desires of Obispo Quiroz. As a result, Obispo Quiroz was confused why we were desiring to baptize, and not finding and rescuing Less Active Members, like he wants for the ward of Las Americas. Finally, through some investigating and some work in the RIGHT patches, we won back a lot (not all, but still a lot) of the trust of Obispo Quiroz. However, there's still a lot of work to do, a lot of finding and rescuing that needs to get done, and more weekly reports of our gradual but successful progress that we should have been striving for... A month and a half ago, hahahaha. Regardless, we're happy, Obispo Quiroz is happy, and I couldn't be more grateful to be here :)

This work isn't meant to be easy. It's not meant to be easy for me, not for my companion, and especially not for our families. But, that doesn't mean that after you do everything you can - and just a little bit more - you'll start to see these blessings pop up out of the ground. It's just like this parable that I found: There was this gardener/jardinero that would spend hours and hours, days and days, tilling the ground, planting seeds, and watering. Obviously, through experience, he knew that nothing was going to sprout up out of the ground instantly. But with a lot of time, a lot of patience, and a whole lot of work, it'll be too hard NOT to see the blessings sprout up and out of the ground, one by one by one, one after the other. I love you guys, and never forget that, even when times are rough, God is always there for us. His Son, Jesus Christ, is there for us, too, whenever we need Him. Which, sometimes, is almost always for some of us. Remember that God wants to bless us. We just need to ask, and show that "we're ready." Until next week,  may God be with you, in your prayers, and throughout the blessings and trials that await us.

Con Sinceridad y Amor,
Elder Conner Duane Parke

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

WEEK 26!!!!

Que tal, mi familia y amigos queridos? Elder Parke aqui con mas historias y otras cosas fantasticas acerca de mi tiempo aqui en mi mision en Ecuador! Probablemente casi cada persona que esta leyendo este entrada de mi blog necesita utilizar Google para entender, jajaja! But, that's enough Spanish for one entry. Onto the good stuff that everyone's been anticipating to hear about all week, right? Am I right?!?!

So, through some digging around and talking to the right people, my companion and I have found out that, out of the 80 people that attended Church last week, the records of our ward (in other words, our Ward Directory of each and every one of our members of our perspective ward) show that there are around 300 PEOPLE that SHOULD be attending Church here in our ward of Las Americas. Finally, I understand why our bishop has been (and probably will be for a long while) so against us wanting to bring investigators to Church, and further yet, baptizing. I find it personally a little funny, because our bishop here, Obispo Quiroz, makes the most disgusted look when he talks to us (and the rest of our Ward Council) about Baptisms. Which is why, starting today, the obligations of my companion and I are to Rescue and Retain (and off to the side Baptize, haha)

I  made this joke with my companion that we weren't assigned here as a companionship to "rescue" this sector/ward and its members; we're here to completely RESURRECT this sector, hahahahaha! We both got a kick out of that, especially the fact that that's going to be the only surefire way that we will be able to officially win back the trust and confidence that our ward's bishop should have in us bring any and all closer to Christ. That means both through Rescuing Less Active members, as well as Baptizing Investigators, who truly have the intentions of joining our Church, for they KNOW (or at least really want to) that this Church is the one AND ONLY true Church of Jesus Christ that resides on the Earth.

I know it's going to be hard, and like I said in my last entry, I have no doubt that it's only going to get harder until I'm finally able to kneel down on my knees, and be grateful for the chance that my Heavenly Father gave me to devote 2 years of my life here on Earth to help bring others, others who I can't help but from this point on see as my brothers and sisters Come Unto Christ through any and all means necessary. Before I go, I would just like to leave you guys with a famous quote that our Mission President, Presidente Riggins told us about Change. It goes like this: "If you always do what you have always did, then you will always get what you have always got." In other words, just like it says in the Scriptures, you got to "lose your life to find it" through means of Service, especially out here in the "ever-wonderful" Mission Field. I love you all, and may God be with you until next week. Until then, take care, and pray always!!

Con Sinceridad y Amor,
Elder Conner Duane Parke

WEEK 25!!!

Happy Birthday to me!!!! Haha, I'm just kidding. What's going on, everyone? It feels like it's been so much longer than just a week since I last wrote, hahaha! As everyone knows, this Thursday (or should I say Jueves) is my 20th birthday! I may not be able to celebrate it with a cake, balloons, or with my family and friends, but I honestly couldn't be more grateful to be out here serving, even though it means having to "work" on my birthday, haha! So, without further ado, a little summary of how my week's been.
This past week (for me anyway) has been work, work, and more work, haha. Searching and trying to come across ways to find people to teach, and more importantly (and time-consuming) how to effectively teach those people, as well as those that we already have to teach, in a way that doesn't involve us having to come back and teach the same thing that we taught the week before. I have said prayers, made fasts, and have even gone through the transfer of my companion (despite being in this sector for hardly a month). I honestly can no longer imagine what I need to do, what it's truly going to take before my mission stops trying to pull my hair out,  and give me just a pinch of liniency and room to breathe.
As I just said, my companion, Elder Alfaro, had a transfer this morning, simply because he had been serving in this sector for nearly 5 months. My new companion is Elder Alcantara from Peru, who has nearly a year in his mission, and knows ZERO English. To be honest, I was expecting to have a companion like Elder Alcantara sooner or later to help me out of my comfort zone and help me learn Spanish more "efficiently", hahahaha. However, that isn't going to help me with the fact that I hardly know my sector, and I hardly know who lives where, members and investigators alike. I can't help but feel a little ashamed and embarrassed not knowing enough about my sector. Through my sincere desire to receive help from the Lord and from my Heavenly Father, I know that I will be able to help the people in this sector that I am in right now with my new companion.
No one, and I repeat, no one had EVER said that this calling would be easy.  Obviously and especially taking upon the name of Christ isn't meant to be easy. But, in exchange for the blessings that I know are going to come in the long run of my life, especially after my mission and when I start my own family, it's a sacrifice that without a doubt I am willing to make. To be able to bless my future wife and children in ways far greater than I could have if I wouldn't have served, I cannot fathom in my mind. I hope that all of you may come to know just how blessed we are in this life to have the restored Gospel of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ upon the Earth for all of our salvation, profit, and learning. I love you all, and may God be with you until I may write once again next week. Until then, "peace be unto thy soul."
Con Sinceridad y Amor,
Elder Conner Duane Parke

Saturday, March 7, 2015

WEEK 24!!!!

Hey Howdy Hey! Happy March, everyone! It's SO crazy to think that my 20th birthday is in two weeks, but before I jump to that, I just want to give a birthday shout-out to by brother Auston, who turned 13 this Sunday! Funny to think that my brother's becoming a teenager when I'm no longer going to be a teenager, hahaha! Not only that, but when I come back, that little white boy of my little brother is going to be starting high school! CRAZY!!! But, enough about the future. The recent past and present is what everyone is waiting on the edge of their seats to hear about, am I right, hahaha! It's a good thing, too, because have I had quite the week, full of some really awesome stories, and I even had my first two official baptisms this past weekend!!!! So what the heck are we waiting for?!?

So this past weekend, two awesome things happened: (1) I found out that I had my first convert already!!!! She was the cousin of the Young Women's Leader in my old ward in Los Sauces whom I had the pleasure of teaching, but she went back to her home in Quito before she could get baptized here :/ But what I later learned is, a couple weeks ago, when she came back to visit again, she got baptized up in Quito!!! So technically, that was my first TECHNICAL convert. The second thing is that my first OFFICIAL baptisms where also this past weekend! Their names are Rosa (50) and Catherine (22) Velastegui, their mother and daughter, and had been investigating the Church for a short while, since just before I came to this sector. They were SO excited when they received answers that this Church is the true Church, and have been coming and receiving our teachings, and got baptized and confirmed this past weekend! Rosa has two other children, Kerlly (25), and Jose Luis (24), who are both still waiting for their "answers", but I believe in due time that they're going to join and be united with their mother and sister in the only true Church of God here on Earth.

Another strange happening this past week (other than receiving my Christmas Cards from the Sundance Ward TWO MONTHS after they were initially sent, hahahahaha!) was when we came across this very special member, Sebastian. He's from this part of Guayaquil that's just barely outside of the borders of our sector, and just barely not in the boundaries of our mission field. It was pretty funny, because this guy was sporting that "Nerdy Superfan" look (the jeans pulled up high, the thick glasses, and he was even wheezing, haha), which I found beyond interesting, especially as he was asking us all these questions, like "Are you Colombian/Northamerican?" "What's the best way to Endure To The End?" and my personal favorite that he asked, "Can you guys come visit and teach me?" Keep in mind that this guy's already a member, and doesn't even live in our mission field, haha. Still, I guess he's still a good referral for the missionaries of the Guayaquil Sur Mission, hahaha. But yeah, it was a beyond interesting experience, to come across a unique member such as Sebastian.

Other than the usual trials and tribulations that come with having the wonderful calling that is a Full-Time Missionary of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, not too much else exciting has happened this past week. It's funny, because I tell my companion Elder Alfaro that "it's always an adventure between our companionship", hahahahahaha! I haven't had a normal day, persay, since I've come to this sector, now that I think about it, but other than the usual teaching our Investigators, Less Active Members, and Recent Converts how they can overcome the trials and tribulations and a TON of them have been having to go through recently. But, I know, my companion knows, and more importantly, we both have the desires for them to know that coming closer to Christ through any and all means necessary, which especially includes Enduring To The End as much as you can (and then a little bit more), that's when you'll start to see just how much God loves you, and how much blessings he's had in store for you; past, present, and most importantly future.

In conclusion, I want everyone to know through my bearing my testimony that, when things get hard, and they seem that they can't get any harder, that's when you need to give it your all, and just a little bit more, until the blessings that I know with a certainty that God has for each and every one of us start to become noticable. Whether it be receiving answers to our prayers, receiving help when we need it most, or even finding out what it is you need to do and how you should do it, I leave my blessing that life may not be easy here on Earth, but it's because God loves us is why we're here. I love you all, and may God be with you until next week!!! Until then, take care, and pray always!!!!

Con Sinceridad y Amor,
Elder Conner Duane Parke

WEEK 23!!!

What is goin' on, my wonderful family and friends? Elder "Poderoso" Parke with a special, five-month-aversary entry of my mission blog!! It's so crazy to believe how long I've been away from home, as well as how long I've been in this wondrous place, haha! So like I said last week, I'm now in a new sector in the same zone with my good friend and companion, Elder Alfaro from Costa Rica. Since last week, we now have 3 Baptismal Dates, and I also learned that this woman that I was teaching before in Sauces that lives up north in Quito GOT BAPTIZED! So, technically, I GOT A CONVERT! I'm not happy that I got a baptism, to be honest, but I'm happy that I was able to help someone come closer to Christ, and help them see how being a faithful member in this true Church is one of the greatest decisions that someone can make in this lifetime. I can't wait to see what the future has in store, and for more opportunities that I know that I am going to have to convert many others.
So, I learned that before I came into this sector, Elder Alfaro already has tons of Investigators, Less Active Members, and a few Recent Converts that we have the grand privilege of teaching. I find it really exciting to have all these different people to teach, because none of them are the same. Each of them may have more or less the same issue that's impeding them one way or another from following the Gospel to their fullest extent, but that's why my companion and I are here. To help them in any and all ways that we can to overcome whatever it may be that's impeding them. For example, we have a Recent Convert named Gonzalo, he's around 50, and he joined the Church around Christmas. Before his conversion, he had an addiction to Alcohol. He overcame that addiction, and got baptized in this Church. Last week, we found out that he's been having some stress-inducing issues going on his life, so we encountered him on the street one night... Drunk. He was stumbling over himself, barking at people walking their dogs, and saying anything and everything that came to his mind. We felt awful for him, so we walked him to his house, and made plans to visit him the following week, and just see what we could do to help him. More importantly, to help him NOT relapse. Not now, and not ever again. During my personal study, I found the Conference Talk by Elder Jorg Klebingat (I am so sorry if I butchered that name) of the Seventy in the Liahona, talking about Standing Before The Throne Of God. Obviously, none of us are admittedly nowhere near ready to be judged before God right now, but this got me thinking: What would you do if you were to be judged by God the very next day? Interesting question, to say the least, I think, haha!

I'm not going to lie, this mission has been insanely hard. I've had to overcome obstacles that I honestly never would have thought that I was able to before. I've eaten more eggs these past 4 months than I have in the past 10 years of my life, I've been able to administer blessings of the sick and blessings of counsel in complete spanish, and like I've already said, I'm happier than ever to have been able to "bring one soul in the kingdom of my Father" (D&C 18). It also says, “And now, if your joy will be great with one soul that you have brought unto me into the kingdom of my Father, how great will be your joy if you should bring many souls unto me!” I couldn't be happier to be serving here, even though it's been beyond difficult, and it probably won't get any easier. But thanks to the help that I've been able to receive from my Heavenly Father, as well as from each and every one of you, it hasn't been easy, but it has been possible. Before I go, I just want to give a shout-out to the two spunky, adorable baby girls that I got to home teach before leaving for my mission: Jordyn Taylor (and her adorable smile), and Kaita Lennberg (and her adorable spunky attitude). Thank you all so much for you love, support, and prayers, and may God and His Spirit be with each of you, to help you overcome your trials, and continue to endure to the end "with all your heart, might, mind, and strength, that ye may stand blameless before God at the last day." (D&C 4)
Con Sinceridad y Amor,
Elder Conner Duane Parke