Monday, September 28, 2015

WEEK 52!!!!

Hi, Mom. We had to go to the Cyber to write early, because we have to go take a couple of buses from here in El Empalme all the way to Guayaquil for a Zones Conference, as well as to go to the Temple tomorrow in the morning (woohoo!). So, I got some good news and bad news. The bad news is that I won't be able to send any pictures this time. But the good news is that I do indeed have some pretty awesome pictures for everyone to see. Anyway, everything's been going surprisingly well lately. Yesterday, we had our Ward Conference, and we had an attendance record of 250! I mean, it wasn't our bishop's goal of 500, but we tried our hardest to invite as many people as we could, Less Active Members and Investigators alike. I understand that it hasn't been the easiest, and it probably won't get any easier, but I still couldn't be more grateful just to be here, doing the Lord's Work. Onto the good stuff, we had the privilege of having a "Capacitacion Conferencia" (Training Conference) this past week from a member of the Seventy, Elder Calderòn. The topic of his discussion was how we, as missionaries, expect to have all this success, without making the sacrifices necessary, such as Exact Obedience to all the rules and limitations. If we, as missionaries, are truly giving it our absolute all to help our brothers and sisters Come Unto Christ. Obviously, I have been paying attention to and obeying all the rules, but even the slightest hiccups, such as not saying my prayers each day, just helps me see that I'm not having as much success as I could humanly, possibly have during my mission. One of my biggest tremors and fears are when I go home, and the same thing happens to me. The last thing I want to do is come home after my mission, and feel like the two years that I (supposedly) dedicated to God felt... Incomplete. I love being here, more than anything. It's been admittedly hard being away from all you guys in order to be here, but I honestly wouldn't trade this opportunity and blessing that it's been to be here for anything in the world. I'm so grateful for everyone's prayers, love, and support that have kept me going for this long, and without a doubt, I'm going to give it 110 percent this coming week. I know in my heart, and I can testify, that if we missionaries, future missionaries (Leilani), and Returned Missionaries, give it all we can, then not only will it bless us, but it will bless those all around us, and those people will come to know that we are children of God, and He loves each and every one of us. If there's anything I learned recently, it's that God doesn't pick favorites. Which is why He desires all of us to return to His presence. Missionary Work is extremely difficult to do (as a missionary or not). But, it's not impossible. I couldn't be more fired up from the training that Elder Calderòn gave us, because it helped me see just how much potential and capability I have at this time as a representative of Jesus Christ and His Church that has been restored to this Earth in these Latter-days. I love you guys so much, and I can't wait to hear from you guys next week. Till then, take care, and I'll try to send you guys a TON of pictures as soon as I can!!!

Con Sinceridad y Amor,
Elder Conner Duane Parke

PS: I have not received any mail (letters or packages) lately. Please make sure that everyone knows that my mailing address changed so as to make sure that as little mail as possible doesn't get hopelessly lost. Thanks, and I love you, Mom!!!

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

WEEK 51 Happy Mission Anniversary!!!

HAPPY ANNIVERSARY, EVERYONE!!! That's right, this Wednesday marks my mission anniversary, woohoo!!! I still haven't seemed to find a computer here that knows how to read my SD Card, but I'll be sure to try and find one super soon, because I have LOTS of really cool pictures that I got for everyone to see, especially in order to celebrate my mission anniversary, woo! I'm not going to lie, this past week has been slower than a snail covered in molasses on top of a sloth on top of a tortoise. The people here are not as "difficult" as the people in the city of Guayaquil, but they're a little bit more difficult to make commitments with, as well as to teach as directly. That being said, I've been feeling a little on the droopy side lately. It's been a little discouraging, a little depressing, and my companion and I just can't seem to find a good rhythm to go off of here. But, I've been able to feel the Spirit with me, thanks to all the prayers, support, and love from everybody (specifically my beautiful, wonderful family), so even though it's been tough, I'm not going to give up hope. I simply see this place as "Packed With Potential". After all, no one said that the mission life was going to be an easy one. I love you guys so much for the love and support that you guys have been giving me up to this point, and if it weren't for you guys, I never would have been able to have the success that I've had so far in my mission. Even though like I've said how many times that it'll only get harder as I keep going, I know in my mind and in my heart that what I'm doing here is good, and those around me have been able to receive the blessings that they need. Until next week, if I can't send you guys any photos, again I'll be sure to try and send them next week. Till then, keep praying often, and remember, Jesus loves you!!!

Con Sinceridad y Amor,
Elder Conner Duane "Poderoso" Parke

PS: If you guys don't know yet, I got a new mailing address! Also, I would LOVE to get some e-mails from you guys, with questions, comments, concerns, jokes, rumors, or simply a cute little heart symbol to show some love and support. Love you guys, PEACE!

WEEK 50!!! Happy Birthday, Mom

Hi, Mom. First of all, I just wanted to wish you a happy birthday. Thank you so much, Mom, for everything that you have given me, everything that you have done for me, and for all the love and support that you have given me, in order for me to be prepared physically and spiritually to serve on my mission. I love you so much, Mom, and I just want you to know that you absolutely deserve to have the best birthday ever. I did have some awesome photos that I wanted to send you, but I can't seem to find a computer here that is compatible with my SD Card. Ah well, I guess I can still wish you a super happy birthday with all of my heart, photos or not. With that being said, it's SO crazy that this is one of the first times that I have celebrated this without being able to be there for it. It feels extremely different, but I know that why I'm here and what I'm doing here is the right thing. To not be able to be there with all of you guys, my family, to eat cake, to sing at the top of our lungs, and to do other crazy cool things to make Mom feel on top of the world like she deserves does indeed feel strange. However, at this time next year, I hope that I'll be able to give just a little bit more than just an e-mail and a blog post. You are an absolute wonder in my eyes, to be able to put up with a loco son like me, and to have given me so much in my life. I truly don't believe that I will ever be able to re-pay you, Mom, for all that you have done for me, and all that you have given me. Just for you, I will try to make the absolute most out of the rest of this divine, unforgetable time that I have to serve in the name of the Lord, and be thinking of you, and all of the love and support that I have had the absolute blessing and privilege of being given. Thank you for being such an amazing example, with all the hard work, all the patience, all the diligence, and all the perseverance that you have in this Gospel, and more specifically, as my loving mother. Nothing special has happened so far, but simply having the miracle and blessing of being here, and having your love, Mom, to support me and help me keep going every step of the way has been such a testimony builder for me. Until next week, keep praying often, and as my friend Rob told me once: "God danced in Heaven the day that you were born." hahaha. God loves you, Mom, I love you, and have a happy birthday, surrounded by all those that love you more than absolutely anything in the universe.

Con Todo mi Sinceridad y Amor,
Elder Conner Duane "Poderoso" Parke
Your Oldest Son

WEEK 49!!! Enjoying El Empalme

Hi, Mom. So, after two weeks so far here in El Empalme, things are extremely different here than they are in the city of Guayaquil, but this place is still pretty cool in its own ways. I'm pretty sure that one of the main reasons that President Riggins sent me all the way up here is so then I could get myself a taste of the missionary work in the Field, after being in the city for practically half of my mission. Regardless, this place isn't half bad. Our main goal between my companion Elder Wilson and I is to find all the people that supposedly ought to be coming to Church, but haven't been. In other words, a good 4/5 of our ward are Less Active members, so it's the job of the four of us here (Me, Elder Wilson, and the other two missionaries here in Empalme, Elders Scribner and Zeta) to basically Search & Rescue any and all that we can. 

One of the things that I've had going through my mind each and every day recently is a question that my mom told me that I should be asking myself after each day of work here: "Am I happy?" and if not, then why not? I honestly haven't been able to find a true reason to not be happy here. I mean, I'm doing some of the greatest work in the universe here, and it's so crazy to believe that I'm almost halfway through. I've taken lots of awesome pictures, but the computer that I'm using to write this week doesn't seem to support my SD Card. Sorry for all those that are waiting for lots of crazy amazing pictures this week, but I promise that I have taken some really cool pictures of my new sector, my companion, and other crazy shenans going on down here in Ecuador.

So, this week's a little bittersweet, because a LOT of the missionaries that I've come to know and make really good friends with here in the mission are finally going home tonight. So, I would just like to extend a great big thanks to all those awesome missionaries that have helped me become the (not trying to toot my own horn here, but) freaking awesome missionary that I've developed to be. Big thanks to Elder Sink (super cool Zone Leader from Las Vegas), Elder Aguilar (my first trainer and father in Babahoyo from Honduras), and Elder Miller (the awesome Secretary of President Amaya and President Riggins for over a year WOW). Thanks so much for the service that you guys have put your hearts and your souls into in order to help`bring others closer to Christ, and to receive the Restored Gospel through the great faith and testimonies that each of these spectacular missionaries have. Until next week guys, keep praying often, God is always there, and never forget to do anything and everything you can to find just one thing to smile about each day. Whether that be a crazy old guy skipping outside a Mini-Market, or thinking about a cute little spider with a water drop for a hat. I love you guys so much, and thank you all again for the love and support while I'm here having a blast in Ecuador. Take care!!!

Con Sinceridad y Amor,
Elder Conner Duane "Poderoso" Parke

Monday, September 7, 2015

WEEK 48 El Empalme

Hi, Mom. Well, I've already been in my new sector of El Empalme (which isn't in Quevedo, surprisingly, but it's 20 minutes away by bus), and let me just say, it's a MONSTER of a sector. Even though there's another companionship serving with us here in Empalme, it's still beyond gigantic, because it's practically its own town separate from Quevedo. Not only that, but almost all of it is "campo" (field, as opposed to working in the city like I was before). Lots of dust, dirt, rocks, and nice people. It's really funny, because my first time attending church here this past week, and they announced that we are no longer a ward anymore, but a branch. The reason being that not enough members were coming to church, and our ward wasn't earning not nearly enough Tithing from its working members. It's both surprising and sad, because there were only 2 wards in and around Quevedo, and El Empalme was one of them. Even though this doesn't make a whole lot of sense, I can't help but feel like it's irrationally my fault. Everywhere I go, bad luck just seems to follow my footsteps. I guess that doesn't make too much sense, though, so I ought to just let it go (haha, Frozen reference. Where's Nika to start singing for me). Anyway, it's not so bad here, but it's going to take an absolute ton of time for me to get used to, especially after serving for so much time in the city; specifically in Guayaquil for so long. It's good to hear that everyone's doing okay, and it's so shocking to think that I'm almost halfway done with my mission. The time goes by so quick, especially when you just lose yourself in the work. I can't wait to see what serving here in Empalme brings to the table. Just by the looks of things, it's going to be interesting to have the blessing of serving here, to say the least. Elder Wilson's really awesome, really chill, and we make a pretty good companionship. We just need to tighten some bolts in our teachings, but other than that, everything's hunky-dory between us. I'll be sure to take lots of awesome pictures and share them with everyone. Until next week, keep praying each and every day, never forget that God loves us, is always listening, and He will never stop being there for each and every one of us. Take care, guys, and keep smiling!!!

Con Sinceridad y Amor,

Elder Conner Duane "Poderoso" Parke

WEEK 47 From Guayaquil to Quevedo

Dear Mom,

And so it happened to me as well. After 7 months in my sector of Las Americas (and 9 in my zone of Kennedy in Guayaquil), I finally got called for transfers!!! In really short terms, I got called from being in the southern-most part of our mission to the northern-most part of our mission. I got to travel in a bus for 3 AND A HALF HOURS to arrive at my new zone and sector. It reminds me a ton of my first zone and sector in Babahoyo, but it's a little more green here. My new companion is Elder Wilson, he has 18 months in his mission, and he is really awesome! I can't wait to get to know him better as we both testify of this restored Gospel and the significance it's had in our lives to anyone and everyone that we will find. I feel kinda sad as well, because I only had 3 weeks with Elder Finch. He became District Leader, he's in a new Sector, and as a cherry on top, he's going to be training a new missionary, as well. Even with stress levels through the roof, he's still a grand example to me personally, because he's still smiling, and he's still going to give it all he's got... Despite proselyting in one of the admittedly most difficult sectors in all of our mission. If I can, I'd truly like to see Elder Finch again after our missions, because not only is he an exceptional example of a missionary and leader, but he's also a really nice and amazing friend of mine. If I can, I'll try to take tons of great pictures of my new zone and sector, in addition to trying to send any other pictures that I got (because if I'm right, I found some computers here that are compatible with my SD Card. Also, I know just how badly all of you want to see my pretty face after being down here in Ecuador for 11 MONTHS NOW! WOO!!! Anyway, I can't wait to see what new people and adventures await me here in Quevedo, and to be able to share as much of it with you guys as I can. Until next week, keep praying often, and never give up, because Jesus loves you, and if you look carefully enough, you'll be able to notice it each and every moment of each and every day. I love you guys so much, and remember to give it your all in order to receive the blessings God has in store for you! 

Con Sinceridad y Amor,
Elder Conner "Poderoso" Parke