Spencer is from Canton, Michigan and is called to serve in the Ecuador Quito North Mission for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints from July 2014 - July 2016.

Monday, November 30, 2015

Week #70 - Coca, Ecuador - November 30, 2015

Dear Family and Friends,

To be really honest, this week has been quite the trial. I use to think that the orient was a calm relaxed area, but my views have now changed.

Most of the week has been blazing sun or pouring rain. I have been telling my companion that we can't walk too much in the sun because it really tires me out. Generally, we don't have to worry much about weather because we are usually teaching people inside. But this week, we had a harder time finding people at home for some reason which made it harder on us since we were outside walking around much more.

Friday (ironically black Friday) was the day that challenged us the most and pretty much changed our plans for the rest of the week. Near our house, we have the bus terminal, and because we don't have a cell phone we go there to make phone calls. We finished all our appointments early for once and we were on our way home. As we were walking on the sidewalk, 2 guys on a motorcycle came on the other side of the road and stopped and one of them got off. I wasn't really paying attention and I was just talking to companion about what we were going to eat for dinner and that maybe we had time to do some exercises. So as the guy came up to me, it was kind of a surprise. He grabbed my shoulder and mumbled something. I could tell he was obviously a little drunk. By instinct, I pushed him away and told him to go away and I kept walking. I took about 3 steps and realized my companion wasn't next to me anymore. I turned around and saw the guy holding my companion by the shoulder with a little kitchen knife in his hand. I got closer to help my companion but the guy told me to back off. He told us that he didn't want money, but that he wanted a cell phone. He continued screaming at my companion telling him, "Give me your cell phone!" During all this, I said a silent prayer in my head and looked around to see if anyone could help us. There were a few people around. They were watching what was happening but no one did anything to help us. 

The guy then demanded for our backpacks and everything we had in our pockets. He took everything we had, flipped us off, then drove off with his buddy with our stuff. Luckily we didn't lose too much, but for my poor companion, the experience was too much for him and he began to cry. They didn't take too much but they did manage to take the keys to our house, $3 dollars from me and $22 from my companion, our missionary agendas, scriptures, my companion's watch and our backpacks. Luckily we were able to beg someone to use their telephone and we called our zone leader for help. We couldn't get in to our apartment, so we slept at their house that night. The zone leader will be going to Quito in a few days and said he will bring back some scriptures for us. We will also fill out a theft report and the mission will help give us the things we need that were stolen.

I was a bit mad after the whole incident but now I realize that we were blessed. We are lucky no one got hurt and that they didn't take anything of value. Honestly though, I feel almost offended for the way he robbed us though. I mean really! All he had was a puny kitchen knife! The guy himself wasn't that big...I was taller than him. And he robbed my companion's watch but not mine?! Ha! Plus he took way more than he is going to use. Most of it will probably be thrown away. Honestly the robbery was pathetic and it makes me laugh thinking about it now. :D If I find the guy again, maybe I'll take him to Detroit so he learn how it's really done and he can stop embarrassing himself! Haha! :p

Anyway, because of the robbery, our Saturday was hard because we didn't have our scriptures. So we asked the members if they had any extra Book of Mormons for us to use. We managed to get one BOM and a Catholic New Testament. And since the robbers took our agendas, we weren't able to follow our plan. All our investigator's phone numbers were in the agendas and now were lost so we couldn't call and remind them to come to church on Sunday. But to our surprise, we had 7 investigators who attended church on Sunday! That was the highest number of investigators attending church that I have ever had in my mission so far. Tender Mercies from the Lord!

Even though it was a hard week, not even adding that we almost got robbed again by 2 big black guys with machetes, it all paid off Sunday. President Ayala came and spoke a wonderfully powerful message. It was probably the most spiritual Sunday that I've had in a long time. Lesson of the week: Even if the week is dark and dim, the Lord will always send his tender mercies! Count your blessings!

Have a great week everyone! Please send prayers our way. It looks like we are in a more dangerous area than I originally thought. And por si acaso you see some shady looking guys with machetes, turn around and walk the other way! That's what we did, and it worked out! The Lord's blessings! ;p

Elder Dyal 

Watermelon and Jackfruit

We ate a Jackfruit this week. It is grown in tropical rainforests. We liked it.

Monday, November 23, 2015

Week #69 - Coca, Ecuador - November 23, 2015

Dear Family and Friends,

This week has been a great week for us here in Coca.

To start off, Elder Nielson, the zone leader here in Coca, came up with a plan to boast up Rama Orellana so that it has better retention for our recent converts and reactivated members. We started with a training meeting that took place last week with the branch council. We talked to the presidents of the auxiliaries in the branch on how to use binders and files and how to fill everything out to make their calling more organized and simplified. The Sur America Nortoeste area leaders have trained and asked the stake presidents to use these rules to make their stake council more eficaz, so we thought it would be good to also have the branch use it as well.

Another idea of Elder Nielson's was to have a branch activity called "Vuela a Hawaii" which explained the plan of salvation but in a way no one was expecting. It was like this: Everyone started on a free plane ride to Hawaii and were given fake money and told to use it wisely. When we landed in Hawaii, there were a bunch of activities everyone was able to do. There was a movie theater, karaoke, basketball, and also activities that would waste time. In all these kinds of activities, one had to use their money to participate. And then there were activities that you could gain money instead of use it. These activities were a little more boring but had to do with reading scriptures or learning something new, like using your time well. After an hour or so, everyone got back on the plane to go back to Ecuador. But on the plane ride there was a "freak accident" and everyone "died". Then we were in the afterlife and we explained that there was going to be a judgement for their use of time and how much money they still had. Then they were assigned to either the Telestial, Terrestial, or Celestial Kingdoms.

The day that we were suppose to be at the church for that activity, Elder Perez and I had a bunch of difficulties getting there. As we were on the bus going to the church, there was a accident that delayed us almost 2 hours. We had an activity planned during the "money exchange" time, but when we finally made it to the activity, it had already started. So instead, we were judges for the final judgement. We changed into baptismal clothes (in all white) to be judges and then we were angels in the Celestial Kingdom. It turned out to be a really good activity. But some people were upset with the kingdom they were assigned to... :p

On Saturday, the elders of Coca had a baptism in the waterfall of Carachupa Pachka (that name is super funny if you know what cara and chupa mean. Hahaha!). Elder Perez and I attended and we invited 2 of our investigators to come with us. But unfortunately it backfired because the investigators just took it as a opportunity to "pasear" and we also found out that they lied to us about being cousins when instead they were boy-friend and girl-friend living together. That was a frustrating situation... But other than that, it was a good baptismal service. Very spiritual. Apparently the missionaries worked a long time with them and they finally committed to get baptized.

Have a great week everyone! Chao!

Elder Dyal

 Carachupa Pachka

 Carachupa Pachka

Monday, November 16, 2015

Week #68 - Coca, Ecuador - November 16, 2015

Dear Family and Friends,

This week has been a fun week here in the Orient.

The branch here in Coca is great. It's really new, like 6 or 7 years old. The church is pretty new in this area as well! Most people haven't really heard about the church so it's probably one of the best places to tract and contact people. Our branch is Orellana. And according to the map limits, my district takes up all of the provincia de Orellana. To put it into better terms, it would be as if you doubled Wayne county (my county in Michigan) in size and took 2/3 of the people out and replaced the forest areas with jungle. I live in Coca which is the biggest city of the provincia but there are also 3 other little cities in the sector called Loreto, Cañon, and Sacha. Loreto is the furthest away. It takes about 2 hours to drive from Coca to Loreto. See what I mean! Really big area.

The other branch and district in the zone is a city called Nueva Loja, which is about 2 and half hours from Coca. Nueva Loja is a smaller branch than Coca in a city called Lago Agrio in the provincia de Nueva loja. The zone leader in Lago Agrio is also the branch president. But since the 3 companionships in Lago Agrio are so far away from the 3 companionships here in Coca, we will never get together and do any activities as a zone.

We are having difficulties with our investigators attending church because our sector is the farthest from the church. Así que, because of that, our investigators have a hard time progressing. But we do have one investigator with a baptismal date! His name is Christian Luna. He only has one obstacle...getting married to his live-in girlfriend. But unfortunately, she is technically illegal here in Ecuador because she's from Colombia.

Anyway, that's more information about my area and the Orient. Oh also, I've seen several monkeys now! I took a picture of one! Have a great week everyone!

Elder Dyal

 A Monkey!

Me and Elder Herrera dressed as natives
(We were the only ones brave enough to do this!)

Monday, November 9, 2015

Week #67 - Coca, Ecuador - November 9, 2015

Dear Family and Friends,

Last Monday was transfers so I'm sorry I wasn't able to write my weekly letter. It was also a bit crazy! I took changes to Coca which is in the Orient. This meant I had to make a super long bus trip. Literally from the polar west of the mission to the polar east. On Monday, we left for Quito and called the asistantes and asked them for instructions on how to get to our area. They told us that we had to go to Quitumbe (in the other mission), then head out to the Orient the same day (which I knew was a bad idea). When Elder Arrieta and I got to Quitumbe, all the buses to Coca were filled or were leaving late that night, so we just went back to San Carlos and helped the elders there for the rest of the night in Quito.

Then again on Tuesday morning, we left for Quitumbe and found out that the buses to Coca were filled up again. So we took a risk and decided to take a bus to Tena, which is halfway to Coca in another part of the Orient, and hoped a bus would be able to get us to Coca that day. When we arrived, we waited about 45 minutes for a bus to arrive. I was getting worried that we wouldn't be able to catch a bus that day, so I said a prayer with Elder Arrieta and not even a minute later, a bus going to Coca came by and had enough room for us on it! The power of prayer is amazing!

Going from Quito to Esmeraldas (my last area) took a long time, but was direct and easy...but going from Quito to Coca is definitely a lot harder since you have to change buses several times, and it takes a lot longer to get there. To be honest, this transfer really surprised me! I felt like I would be transferred, but I wasn't expecting to go to the Orient. Only the missionaries that the mission president really trusts go to the Orient because it's super far away from the mission home. 

The zone itself is different than any other area I've been in. There are only 6 companionships...3 in Coca (where I will be) and 3 in a city called Lago Agrio. What's more weird is that the zone leaders are spilt up...1 in Coca and 1 in Lago Agrio. Also, the zone is HUGE. Lago and Coca are 2 hours from each other and the zone goes all the way to Quito. Just my sector is 2 hours getting from one point to the other. Bigger than all my other sectors combined.

But yeah, I went from one extreme to the other. Super fun!!!!!!! I am up against the rainforest and a few days ago I saw a toucan! Now I just need to see a monkey!

I love you guys! I hope everyone enjoyed el dìa de los muertos!

Elder Dyal 

 My companion Elder Perez and I in our apartment

 Another view of our apartment

Our lunch today...

 Elder Perez and I ate mayones, which are worms that the Indians find in palm trees and like to eat! Què rico!