Sunday, December 13, 2015

Week 62 "Black Christmas" 12/7/15

Hi, Mom. So, things have been a lot slower lately, not too sure why, perhaps from all the preparations for Christmas and New Year's. But yeah, our appointments are starting to fall through a lot more often, and it's getting harder to find new investigators to teach. As President Riggins says, this month, we gotta step it up. We gotta give it all we got, because this season is what the Mission calls "Black Christmas". It's up to us to testify with all our hearts and all our might that this is the true Church of God here on Earth. We gotta show them that our Church is the only Church that contains a prophet called of God, twelve apostles, and holders of the Authority to act in God's name. President Riggins also made it clear that, despite the fact that the Book of Mormon supports our belief and respect for the Virgin Mary, we do not worship nor adore her, considering that that would be in contradiction with the Ten Commandments (thou shalt have no other Gods before me, for I the Lord God am a jealous God... etc). Also, these people ought to know that not only do we not worship Joseph Smith (nor Adam, nor Moses, nor any prophet of God, for that matter), but we also don't address God by His "name", for that too is blasphemy. We address Him through one of the most respectful titles we could, which actually is "Father". Think about it: Do any of us call our fathers/dads by their names, or simply as "Father"? The point that I'm trying to get at with that is we address Heavenly Father as such, in order to show that we have the utmost respect, love, and even fear for Him and all power/knowledge we know He has. There is virtually no way that one can prove the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints is a man-made Church, with man-made doctrine, man-made teachings, and above all, a false prophet. That being said, I am extremely grateful for the blessing and opportunity that God has given me to be here in Ecuador to share with others how this Church has blessed my life, and how it can bless their lives, as well. I can testify without hesitation that God hears and answers our prayers, that He loves us, and if He didn't, then He wouldn't give us the blessings that He does. I can't wait for the blessing that I'll get to Skype Call you guys, so you can once again have the privilege of seeing my face and hearing my voice again. It's so crazy that this Christmas marks my 15th month in the mission. How the time flies! Before I know it, I'll be Skype calling home again for Mother's day in May, and then going home in the Fall. WOAH! I can't believe it! I love you guys a ton, and I'll be sure to send some awesome pictures for this coming Christmas for everyone to see and have fun with on the blog. Until next week, stay strong, and remember that so long as you guys stay true, and keep a prayer in your hearts, God will always help you in your times of need. Give Chloe tons of love for me, because it still breaks my heart that I can't be there to do it myself. Take care!!!!

Con Sinceridad y Amor,
Elder Conner "Duane" Parke

PS: The latest package I received was of the razor, deodorant, and my USB Cable. And the last letter I received was from the Youth/Mutual. If you can, let Brother Siddoway know that I'm still super grateful for helping me find a job before I left on my mission. If possible, I'd actually like to have my old job back. Thanks!

Week 61 I Am A Loser

Hi, Mom. So, according to President Riggins, because we are coming closer to Christmas Time, we are entering into our little version of "Black Friday". What this means is that the Spirit will be more with us, so long as we are willing to work for it, and it will help us testify of the truth, and how those around us here in El Empalme can truly come closer to God and Jesus Christ (which clearly is through the Church of Jesus Christ). That being said, we have a new Christmas Initiative that is going to help us earn the trust and understanding of the people more easily. It's called "A Savior Is Born (Ha Nacido Un Salvador in Spanish)." So, the purpose of this new Initiative is to help others understand that our beliefs and their beliefs aren't so different. What I'm trying to get at here is the whole "Santa Maria" (Holy Mary) thing. President Riggins helped shed a little more light on this subject by showing us a few passages in the Book of Mormon that, believe it or not, show quantifiable evidence that we, as "Mormons", do indeed believe in Mary. HOWEVER, because we believe in Mary, that is not the same as worshipping Mary. Instead, we believe, we respect, and we even give thanks to the fact that Mary was chosen - both in this life and in the pre-existence - to be the earthly mother of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. I'm personally really glad that President Riggins helped clear this up a little more, because you have no idea how much it pestered me to see a little Holy Mary figurine on the dashboard of half of the taxi drivers here. Now, we can utilize that to help people like them come to know and recognize us not only as Mormons, but also as representatives and messengers of Jesus Christ who also believe in Mary as they do.

I'm still a little depressed about how Chloe's days here on Earth are now very numbered, but at the same time, it helps me strengthen my testimony of the Plan  of Salvation. I have faith that I'll see her, as well as my family again after this life. While I was serving in Guayaquil alongside my extremely good friend Elder Finch, I learned that a splendid way to contact people is to mention the Plan of Salvation that God has for us, especially because most of them are truly unsure if they will ever get to see their loved ones again. By testifying of this great and wonderful Plan, we can help them strengthen the faith that they already have in God, as well as fortifying it with more truths. If I remember right, one of the last things that Great-Grandpa Larry Parke wanted me to do was sing. I told him, "Nah, maybe next time, Great-Grandpa." But then, he got sick, and his time to leave this Earth came soon after. I loved him more than ever, and to be able to share with others that I know I will see him again is a great part of my testimony.

I've been tempted a lot lately to murmur against my companion. What I learned this morning is the fact that I have no right to murmur against him, or anyone, for that matter. This is why my mindset, for a while now, is this: I am a loser. I'm not saying that this means people have to feel sorry for me, and I'm not saying that I don't deserve anything. What I'm trying to say is that, I don't deserve to complain, I don't deserve to bicker, and I don't deserve to show any hard, cold feelings of hate, anger, or contention towards anyone or anything. This world is dark, this work is hard, and it's sometimes difficult not to admit that I feel alone, sometimes. But, to believe that I am alone is to disregard the truth that God loves me, and that I was chosen to be here, to represent His Beloved Son and His true Church. These people, although they may not know it as well as I do, are my brothers and sisters. Each of them are special, and each of them deserve to know how they can see the hand of God more often and more easily in their lives.

Before my mission, I was lazy. One of the things I liked to do most was sit on my laptop computer and play video games. Little did I know, that I was being distracted from doing far more productive and far better things with my time. It would make me full of anger and hate, and virtually no one would want to be around me. I felt alone, even in my own house, even around my own family, and it would only make me angrier and hate everything (including myself) more. When I learned for myself that I'm never alone (and never will be), it filled me with this burning desire to do more... It especially filled me with this burning desire to show my Heavenly Father just how much He means to me, and just how grateful I am for all He has given me. Perhaps, that is why my heart was so set on my serving a mission. Two years was the least I could give to my Father in Heaven in exchange for the blessings that He's already given me, in addition to the blessings that are to come. The mission has helped me learn so many things, and I can't wait to put what I've learned into practice when I return home, when the time comes. But until then, I'm going to make the absolute most of the time that I have here, and take full advantage of the burning, strong, and ever-growing testimony that I have been blessed with.

Until next week, guys, stay strong, stay true, remember God loves you, and He will never let anything happen to you that you can't handle. What doesn't kill you makes you stronger, both physically and spiritually. Keep praying often, because God always hears and answers our prayers. Trials may come to pass in our lives, but witohut those trials, we couldn't notice all the miracles, both big and small, that are all around us. I love you guys so much, and I'm so thankful for the love and support that each of you guys give me!!! Take care!!!

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

Week 60 The Astute Adversary

Hi, Mom. So, I can't lie to you guys, I've been a little discouraged lately. The reason I say that is because the Adversary (I prefer not to say his name, simply because he doesn't deserve that kind of recognition) has been on my case, especially throughout this past week. I believe it's because he knows that Elder Wilson and I have been working extremely hard to save the souls here in El Empalme, in addition to having success at doing so. He's been specifically trying to turn me against Elder Wilson and vice versa. But, if I can just remember why the both of us are here, and what we are capable of as a companionship, then I should be okay. I mean, I will admit that it practically shatters my heart that our dog Chloe has Cancer (Lymphoma), and is most likely going to die before I'll even be home. It just goes to show you guys that the Adversary goes at us from as many angles as he can, especially when he knows how weak I am if he attacks me through my family. Just thinking about it while I write this blog post is making it fairly hard not to just break into tears while sitting in a public cyber. I can't imagine how heart-broken my other dog Clark is going to be after his sister's gone. This makes me think of these Preach My Gospel videos that we watch here in the Mission, where one of the missionaries, Sister Voyles, has a brother die while she's serving her mission. She kept going strong in her mission, and I'm going to do the same. The Lord called me to be here in Ecuador, to preach His Restored Gospel for two years, and that's exactly what I'm going to do. I love that adorable little boxer more than anything in the Universe, and she will occupy a special spot in my heart forever. Personally, I hope I'll see that little dog again someday, otherwise it just won't be eternal happiness... Not for me. Before I go, I'll be sure to send you guys some awesome photos of the past baptisms that I've got here, as well as some of the insane stuff that I've been eating, just to not end this post on any bad note. I love you guys so much, and just remember: God never lets anything happen to us that we can't overcome. He knows us better than we do, and that does include our limits and our weaknesses. Keep praying often, because I can testify that praying gives me the spiritual strength I've needed while here in the Mission. Until next week, take care guys, and stay strong!!!

Con Sinceridad y Amor,

Elder Conner Duane "Poderoso" Parke