A big hello to all back in Utah! We survived Christmas and what fun it was! I sure loved hearing from you all and sorry if I talked too long and just spurred off randomly! Let me just tell you that you cannot have a better Christmas than in the mission field. It sure is an adventure and such a blessing as you forget the gifts, you forget the lights and the dazzle, but you meet in the humble brick home with mud floors, share a Christmas Message and play some games to lighten the kids' faces!
We spent Christmas Eve... eating haha. We ate 3 or 4 times and it was fun to see an Ecuadorian Christmas. For Christmas Eve, Buena Noche, they have dinner at midnight and then crash to bed. The next day they simply spend the morning with the family, there are a few fiestas in the streets, but for the most part it really isn't that big of a deal. It was sad to see. We got SO many questions this week, people bothered on WHY we celebrate Christmas in December when Christ wasn't born then, and then why we even celebrate it at all. I really have never had a better Christmas than here in the field as we testified that it really doesn't matter WHAT date we celebrate, shouldn't we simply rejoice and be grateful for a Savior who was born to save us all from sin and we DO have a day to focus even more on Him? Many families don't have money to give gifts, or if they do it is one or two small items. People really lose hope in the Christmas Season for the worldly pressure to buy to enjoy, but it sure lit me up to simply listen and see the joy in a 3 year old running around with his Christmas toy motorcycle!
We spent the end of the evening with a recent convert family and did a gift exchange. It really was a humbling joy as I received shorts and colored pencils when I simply gave a stocking filled with candy. We shared a message, shared candy, and played games. The best moment of Christmas came in kneeling to pray as a family, in a circle on the mud and wood floor and such a sweet spirit entered the tiny home surrounded by the worldly drinking and partying as a family kneeled to thank the Lord for the wonderful gift of His Son.
Christmas is family, Christmas is Christ, Christmas is hope. I wish I could've given more this Christmas, a Christmas I hope to never forget.
Here comes New Years and that one sure is a riot. They have a really cool tradition here too! They do Paper Mache people, big ones too, and as the clock ticks to the New Year, all the paper mache people are out in the street, hundreds and thousands, and they set them on fire! As the clock strikes Happy New Year, the Ecuadorian Streets are filled with burning paper people. They create themselves, more or less, and burn what they want to leave behind (kind of like our New Year Resolutions) and they create 'El Testamento' which is a will that 'rises from the ashes of their old self of all the new and good they want to accomplish in the coming year.' It really is pretty cool and I'm excited to see the Ecuadorian Streets light up!
My Holiday Season really strengthened my testimony, we live in a world filled with sin, dirt, wickedness, turmoil, but I have a strong testimony of the true hope and peace STILL found in focusing your life in the Savior. It was sad to hear that Christmas really isn't that important to many down here. What I have learned more than anything is found in 2 Nephi 28. The littlest things mean the world, for good or for bad. The world we live in sure is changing and quickly! We need to be doing the little things, we need to be reading our scriptures daily, we need to be praying fervently, we need to listen to the Prophet's voice, we need to Sanctify the Sabbath Day, we need to be on our guard always because we face a sad state of Apostasy in the world. Individual Apostasy is real, and real scary. It is a process, and a small one with HUGE results. Let us learn from 2 Nephi 28, The Christmas Season, and the New Year. Let us really do the littlest things to base our lives in Christ, repent and put your errors behind and make this New Year the best one ever!
Remember, we're in a River. We're either progressing or falling back slowly. Christ is at the head of the River beckoning to us while Satan is doing all he can to let you drift slowly, easily to destruction. Press forward, life is great, it sure is worth living! I sure love you all and am learning so much daily! I am SO excited and want to keep learning, want to get home and just put in in practice, but want to share it here in Ecuador too! I'm all twisted up haha, but I KNOW Christ lives. I KNOW the Book of Mormon is the word of God. I KNOW we have living Prophets today in Thomas S. Monson. I KNOW Christ will come and am so excited. Let us 'prepare every needful thing,' and why don't we enjoy it on the way!
With all my love, with all my desires, and with a huge grin on my face for the work we're involved in.