Hi, Mom. So, I want to start with the reason that it seems like I extremely rushed my e-mail from last week was because I did. I neglected to wish Auston a happy 14th birthday, and I also forgot to mention how CRAZY last week was here. Anyway, the main reason why we were late was because the Branch President asked if we can come in that morning to help him with some computer stuff. What we ended up finding was OUR CHAPEL WAS FLOODED. Apparently, someone got into our chapel's kitchen, turned the sink on, and plugged the drain. Because our chapel's a pretty small building (it's got like 6 classrooms, a clerk office, the Branch President's office, and the kitchen doubles as the Relief Society room). So, we had to mop up all of the water, and we had to go back home and clean ourselves up. Luckily, we had two awesome baptisms that past Saturday (their names are Alfredo and Angela Macias), whom Elder Reilly had been teaching for the past 5 months! It's was absolutely worth it, though, because they both have such strong testimonies in the Church and its teachings. They had to give up alcohol, coffee, and even get married in order to make their first official covenants with God, and to enjoy the many blessings to come in their amazing lives and family.
So, it's crazy to believe that this Saturday I turn 21 years old. It's been such a climb to get here, but I couldn't be happier, especially with all the help the mission has given me to reflect on my life, to help me grow more spiritually in addition to physically, and especially to help me realize how I can bless my life by helping others. It's been far from easy, but I'm more grateful than anything about how strong a testimony I now have in the Savior, His teachings, and His Atonement. I'll obviously never be able to sufficiently re-pay my Savior for the sacrifice that He made for me personally, but that won't stop me from doing anything and everything I can so those around me (especially right now while I'm here in Ecuador) can also feel the Savior's love and apply such an unforgettable gift more in their lives. Some people, I'll admit, have found the gift of Repentance & Forgiveness a bit too simple for their taste here, but it's surprisingly true, now that you think about it. If the Savior loves you as much as you think He does, don't you think He'd make it as possible as He can for you to apply that love in your life? ("In all that you do and say", as the Christian, Evangelic, and of course Mormon Church all appear to have as such a root to their doctrine and teachings.) Too many people, in my opinion, underestimate this blessing, while others find it too easy and plain to grasp its necessity. Though God is just, and will help us know just how wrong we are sometimes, that doesn't mean at all that He doesn't wish for each and every one of us, as His children, to return to live with Him. I'm so grateful to be given a "Second Chance", so to speak, thanks to Jesus Christ. I'm also super grateful to my parents, for helping me learn how to love this gift. I love you guys so much, and until next week, never forget just how much our Savior's love is around us, and carries us. Take care!!!
Con Sinceridad y Amor,
Elder Conner Duane "Poderoso" Parke
PS: Also, my favorite thing in the package was BY FAR these amazing shoes!!! Thank you SO much for them! I love you guys! Tell Oliver I love him, too!!!