Family and friends,
A few weeks ago I had my first baptism in a river :) Here is the picture. This was in a small little town called Pedernales that is 5 hours away from Portoviejo but its still part of the same zone. Crazy stuff huh but its worth every second of traveling time to go there because the people are so humble and happy :) I've gone there quite a few times to do baptismal interviews for the last few months and every time I went we would go visit Stalin and Nury (the couple to the left of me in the picture) and I got to know them really well and we became great friends. They were living together for a long time and had two kids but still weren't married (a common problem here in Ecuador) so for a long time they wanted to get baptized but couldn't because they were still saving up money to get married (it costs about $55 here and that's a ton here). Finally through a ward activity to help raise money they were able to get married and baptized together and Stalin really wanted me to baptize him so I got to stay in Pedernales for two days and I got to baptize him in a river :) a truly wonderful experience that I won't soon forget. This couple is incredible and I know that they'll be an eternal family :) they already have planned to go to the temple in a year and they're way stoked!
That was one of the last events for me in Portoviejo because last week I had transfers... I'm not going to lie it was really tough at first because I absolutely love Portoviejo. Its an incredible zone, with an amazing ward that really loves and supports us, Elder Tibanlombo is an awesome companion and we really worked well together, the people there are so humble and happy, they love missionary works, the food is delicious, and we had surpassed the goal every month breaking records, winning dinners with President, and saving many souls :) life was really good in Portoviejo. I miss being there to be honest. There will always be a special part in my heart for the people there and the nice thing is that Elder Tibanlombo lives in Quito which is only a few hours aways from there so we already have planned that when I go back to Ecuador that we'll go visit our converts and friends there together with our families :) its sure to be a good time. "Preach My Gospel" says that we should always leave our sector and zone stronger than we found it so I feel happy that I have done that and hope that the work continues to progress and improve there :)
I have now been changed to the zone Quevedo Sur in sector Quevedo 1 with my new companion Elder Muñoz from Ciudad Mexico, Mexico. This is the same zone where I first started my mission in Empalme and was having lots and lots of success in about a year ago with Elder Linares and Elder Vielma as zone leaders but sadly since those two left its been a downhill slide for Quevedo Sur. At one point things were so bad here that in the month of January the entire zone combined only had 4 baptisms. Honestly to me that's a huge example that its the quality of leader and missionaries that really makes the difference. I'll be honest when I first got here I was pretty stressed because there were a lot of problems in the zone. Lots of the missionaries weren't being obedient, there was contention between many of the missionaries, there was very little unity as a zone, there were very few baptisms and investigators with baptismal dates, and there was a lack of motivation and vision in many of the missionaries. So one of my first nights here I got on my knees and I had a very long conversation with my Heavenly Father pleading and asking for guidance and strength to be able to really turn things around here in Quevedo Sur and I felt his love and support :) I really felt and know without a doubt that He is well aware of me and my situation and he knows this is exactly what I need right now and Quevedo Sur is exactly where I need to be. I trust in Him (Proverbs 3:5-6) and I know that all of these experiences will be for my good (Romans 8:28) and if I do my part it'll be for the good of many people here in Quevedo Sur.
Things have already changed quite a bit and its a new Quevedo Sur :) one of the things that has most helped us is what I call the 8 Attributes of a Successful Zone. Its a list of qualities and principles that good zone leaders and missionaries should do in order to have success. I first wrote this list when I was called zone leader in Portoviejo and I sat down and meditated carefully what were some of the key things that Elder Vielma and Elder Linares did in Quevedo Sur to have the results that they had. Since that time about 3 months ago I have made several revisions with the help of ideas from Elder Carrillo, Elder Tibanlombo, Elder Muñoz, my dad, and many other people and from many other personal experiences that have happened since that time. I know that this list works because its what helped us win the dinner with President Amaya and set a new record twice. Also a few months ago my buddy Elder Magill had recently been called zone leader and was a little nervous about how to do a good job so he asked me for some advice. Happy to help a friend I gave him a lot of tips from the list and he took a picture of the list and took that picture with him to his zone and applied it for the month of April in his zone Los Rios... and guess who won the dinner with President in April... Los Rios!! Haha when Elder Tibanlombo found out about that he joked around saying it was my fault we had lost the dinner haha but we both know that the most important thing is the salvation of souls so I'm happy that the list was able to help them save more souls there in Los Rios and hope that it can help lots of other zone leaders and missionaries be more successful and bring more children of God unto Christ. Fortunately, now that Elder Magill is assistant with Elder Vielma and they have both seen the power of that list they asked me the other day to write it all out in an email and send it to them to be able to share with all the zone leaders in the mission. The other day the assistants were revising the district leader handout that gives some guidelines to all the new district leaders how to do their job well and they asked for my help on how to make it better and I was able to add some points from the 8 attributes list that I know will help out a lot the new district leaders :) its exciting being able to share this information with others because I know it will help us all better build the Kingdom of God. Also I was thinking it'd be good to send this list to all of you because many of you reading are future missionaries and it will definitely be a big help or if you're not future missionaries the principles of this list will be able to help you in any aspect of life whether it be how to have a successful sports team, family, business, be a good student, or whatever it is these atributes can be applied and will bring results to all :) I definitely don't have time to write it all out in English with the little Internet time that I have so I will send the Spanish version that I sent to the assistants to some trusted friends who I hope can translate it for me and then I'll be able to send it to all of you :) I'll be updating you all on how that goes next week.
All in all it was really tough leaving Portoviejo and I still miss the people a lot but I know that this is what God needs and I will go and do what He commands me to do! Life is better when we have that attitude of trust and devotion to the Lord. And honestly I've always had the dream of being able to one day go back to this zone because I really love the people here and its cool to be able to see my converts from Emplame and some members here in Quevedo that I got to know a year ago. It truly is a blessing to be here and I will make the most of it while it lasts!
Remember to always trust in the Lord and seek His guidance in all things. Make prayer more personal and meaningful (Alma 37:37) and we will have more personal and meaningful answers to our prayers :) we will feel His great love for us more abundantly. For all you future missionaries out there prepare yourselves for the time of your life and I promise you that this is the most important work that exists on the face of the planet and it is the most rewarding :) many blessings await you and also many responsibilities so prepare yourselves well :) the best way to do it is studying daily "Preach My Gospel" and the Book of Mormon, and living worthily of the constant companionship of the Holy Ghost.