Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Email - March 28, 2011

First off... what a change it has been this transfer! We got a phone call Sunday night, Elder Elliott took off as a Zone Leader for his last few months. We got a second call and I got changed too! I was excited and got all packed up, we got to Guayaquil early this morning to switch everything up. What fun it is to see good friends again, I feel like Alma who said how great his joy was to see his brethren again... that they were still his brethren in the Lord.

Sitting with the Assistants I was told that my companion is waiting for me in Manta, 4 hours out from Guayaquil and an hour away from my first sector in Portoviejo. We are the beach, it is hot, it is dry, there is a nice breeze, but what fun in Manta! I forgot which sector exactly, but I'll get that to you next week. I was excited, simply waiting to head out to Manta until the Assistant came back to tell me 'Hey by the way, you're going to do great as a District Leader.' I'm a District Leader out in Manta. My companion is Elder Barcia (another elder from Guayaquil). I know him from my first Zone, it'll be fun! I'm nervous for the new calling, but know all will turn out just like my smoothies for breakfast... breaking the blender and making everyone in the house mad! Haha no, but the Lord always pushes us out of our comfortable zone so we can truly be molded into the Representative that He called. He molds us with the faith we put in action. We can pass through the tough or awkward or challenging times complaining and worrying the whole time and that is just how we'll end up; but as we simply act in the faith in knowing the Lord has called you, He molds you into the instrument He wants to play. The Lord plays masterpieces, He needs instruments, He calls us daily but do we allow Him to mold us by enduring to the end?

I'm excited for the new change, Elder Salas is back at Vinces and I sure hope for the best for him. We improved so much and I was touched as he was upset for my change. I learned a lot about myself that change. It isn't enough to simply pass through time. We need to make the best of it! It isn't enough to walk by 'your companion' and endure his faults, we need to learn to recognize AND TELL 'our companion(s)' their strengths. It isn't enough to recognize the blessings of God in your life, but to apply the end of Alma 34 and have an Acción de Gracias, act and thank the Lord.

This new experience has really been on my mind AND I left my agenda at the house with my notes of the week, but I'll share this with you in closing. Simply keep the commandment. I can't tell you how many times Alma tells Helaman, and then reminds Shiblon, and then counsels Corianton on simply keeping the commandments through Alma 36-42. Just do it. We know them. It really hurts me as I think of 4 investigators (3 siblings and a boyfriend) that we progressing so well and then simply fell off the map. A girl that went from a Baptismal Date and Personal Progress to living in Unión Libre with her boyfriend and whatever dark, sleezy, easy sin that accompanies it. We visited them last night and we asked them what they need to be to be happy - Keep the Commandments they responded. We asked them what they had learned in this time and responded about Prophets, Chastity, Prayer, the Scriptures, Sabbath Day, hey alright! But it just breaks my heart as I asked them one question that I knew the answer too and they wouldn't say it 'If you know it and you know what it brings... why don't you do it?' It breaks my heart.

As a missionary you see the highs of highs fall to the deepest and darkest pits of the adversary. Don't let that be you. We always say 'the primary answers.' Why? Because the primary answers of reading the scriptures, saying our prayers, going to church really help us stay firm in moments of great temptation of Chastity, Word of Wisdom, The Easy Things. We are blessed with the knowledge. It assures investigators of the truth if they simply do it, it assures members of the church life eternal... if they simply do it. Simply do it and be saved.

Yo sé que la iglesia es la verdadera y que la única manera de lograr la felicidad eterna como familia es guardar los mandamientos de Dios con toda diligencia. Sabemos que Cristo nos va a salvar si hacemos 'cuanto podamos' (2N25:23). La vía es preparada (2N9:41) y sencillamente nos guía hacia la paz en este mundo y la vida eterna en el mundo que viene. 'Siempre obedece los mandamientos, tendrás gran consuelo y sentirás paz.'

Love you All!
Elder McGinn

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Email - March 21, 2011

Well... after all of Aesop's Fables, this is not a fable. The Latinos do not understand, nor do they like St. Patrick’s day, haha. Elder Elliott and I got a kick out of pinching them real hard with our green ties that morning. Of course, we played fair and explained them the rules first, but simply don't understand. I pinched my companion, wished him a Happy St. Patrick's Day, and he greeted me with a real hard pinch back. Well... I told him the rules of what happens when you pinch someone wearing green and he really didn't like the punch he received in return. I thought they understood after that, until the next day he pinched me real hard, asking me where my green was haha. Oh the fun of the culture change.

Oh and I really loved the talk by Pres. Uchtdorf in the Liahona with the glass half empty of half full, but I won't lie, the joke of seeing the glass 'Half Blurry' came into my head. Sometimes in life we have pessimists , sometimes we have optimists, and sometimes we have those who live confused! Haha.

Anyway... here's a week in the life of the Tree Cat:

To be honest, this week was a bit tougher. Things seem to be really hitting my companion that is serving only 2 hours from his family. We've really been looking to have the Spirit, be guided by the Spirit, not simply go to who we've planned, but to plan and be worthy, listening, and ready to act on the changes the Lord wants in our plans. This week I tried to focus on that and I want to tell you all the real value there is in following the Spirit, no matter how small, no matter how insignificant. In this week we haven't had many lessons, haven't had many progressing, we did have a ton at church, but it was nuts and we didn't have the sweetness there should be in the meetings.

The highlight of my week came... last week! On Monday we were walking through the center of town and I had the slightest glance, not even a whisper, at a lady fumbling with a table. We ran in the moment to hold up the table and put back in place the two legs that had fallen loose. She thanked us and we went on our way. As we turned the corner I noticed 3 ladies fumbling on a stool to fix up the roof to their little market tent. The Humble Bumble ran over and simply helped, without need for a stool, fix up their ceiling. The most gratifying moments of my week were, combined, maybe 45 seconds. It was done with a smile, it was done in following... or simply being alert to what happens around me, it was service. The Lord guides us, places us, and hopes we'll succeed. It was so sweet to simply act on a moment placed before me. I didn't even preach the Gospel. That's not the important thing in the mission either... if we won't live it. We read the scriptures, we go to church, we pray, but in the street and in the home, do we seek the Spirit to lift as the Savior?

Also, on Sunday I learned a great lesson too and had the privilege of acting on the Spirit to teach this lesson. We were giving a class to our investigators on the Principles of the Gospel, it was on the Life of Christ. We can talk all day about Christ and His life, but does it really mean something to us? It didn't to me until I read Helaman 5:12 in a really hard time in my life, but I KNEW and still KNOW from that moment that Christ is my Savior. We were in the class listening and someone asked... So why is this important to US... today? The question was never answered, but one investigator who has come 3 weeks in a row without even being taught by us was persistent on getting the answer. I really hope you get anything at all from this story haha, I feel like I'm lost and troubled, but it was such a sweet sensation to stand up and tell everyone in the class why the life of the Savior is important to me! Sometimes we simply talk and listen, but do we know? Do we feel? Do we desire? I read that passage of scripture in Helaman 5:12 in a really rough time in my personal life, things almost came to a close with a neck injury too, but I now know of the importance of finding and cultivating that personal relationship with Your Redeemer.

To end my rambling, this investigator has an appointment with us, he has the Book of Mormon, he has friends in the Gospel, and more than anything, he knows the importance and the way to find his personal relation with Christ.

There wasn't much this week, but oh yes there was. We sought the Spirit, we found it. We tried to serve, we did it. We know where to improve, it will be done. Cristo vive, yo lo sé y me encanta saberlo. Por eso me quedo en la misión con tanto ánimo y esfuerzo. Siempre hay algo que mejorar, pero siempre hay algo por ser feliz. No hay obras, recompensas, dolores, y gozos como así. Tratando de quitar el dolor del mundo con El Evangelio de Jesucristo! (Christ lives, I know and I love to know. So I stay at the mission with such courage and effort. There is always something to improve, but there is always something to be happy. No work, rewards, pains and joys as well. Trying to take away the pain of the world with the Gospel of Jesus Christ!)

¡Nos Vemos!
Elder McGinn

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Email & Pictures - March 14, 2011

So this week was Carnaval. We expected people in white and completely wet (we're not talking about baptisms here...) We had little hopes of good numbers for the week. But we put the scriptures to life! We survived just about everything!

We played Moses and parted a group of kids that yelled 'Los Mormones!' until the weasel of the group shouted 'No No! No les mojen!' Haha then we pulled the Book of Mormon in action and as my companion about wet his pants I told him, just keep walking, just keep walking, and we pulled a Samuel the Lamanite as water balloons and nasty muddy water splashed from side to side.

Monday was P Day and we were out the whole day. Tuesday was the worst of it all and we were inside until 6pm. and Wednesday it is finished. The Catholics just walk around the city with painted white crosses on their foreheads. There was a lot of hype, but we survived it all! I did get a kick out of the group we parted though haha, all ready to fire with shaking knees until the weasel panicked and they all went running. I attached a picture from our roof of the 'other side of the bridge' where everyone is drunk, covered in paint, music like crazy, and whatever other sin you want. Glad we missed that.

This week was a blast… a test of patience, a test of hope, a test of diligence, and fulfilling the promise in Ether 12:6. We finished the week with 3 baptisms!

First I'll tell you about the baptism. So we had an activity Saturday and got to cleaning and filling the font at 1 or 2. It fills up and when we return the water is dark green. Nuts. So we lower it and clean it real, real good cause it's been awhile since the last baptism there. It starts to fill up again. Upon returning, there's an inch of water. Nuts, it's 4:30pm with a baptism at 7! We run to the tank for the street, there is no water, bone dry. We have two options... the firefighters or the River. The firefighters are in Guayaquil haha (3 hours away). Option 2 - the river. We are thinking out another solution and praying (I did think it'd be awesome to have a river baptism though) and just as the clock strikes 6 water started filling the font. At 7 it was half full with brown water. Nuts. This is the only time I will be grateful for the Ecuadorians who come late to everything. We still had brown water, but the candidates showed up an hour late, we had a full font. The baptism was great and I felt the sweetest spirit in seeing their confirmation. It is so simple, we can accept or reject the Spirit so easily, but what a cool testimony of the worth of the little things.

We've had so much success here, Elder Salas and I. We have grown as friends first, then we can have success in the Spirit. If there is contention, even in the slightest degree, the Spirit cannot abide, therefore you will not succeed in anything. It is revealed in D&C the importance of the Spirit in saying that if we do not have it as missionaries... we do not teach. If we're not teaching, what do we do?! We have had 3 baptisms in this new area and should have a few others the next week or two, I'm really excited with how we've flourished out here. We flourish in the little things by Faith, Diligence, Patience. How often do we come ready and feel the spirit in the Sacrament? How many times do we go to our ward or stake baptisms? How often do we feel or seek the spirit in a blessing, in LISTENING in our prayers, in receiving an answer to a question you had in your scripture study hours later during the day? If we listen, we will find.

The Lord makes us, Satan breaks us by the little things. Do we study our scriptures... or tomorrow? Pray... or tomorrow? Follow a Prompting (or write it down)... or hope you'll remember... tomorrow? Act today, for the Lord's Kingdom is at Hand! The mission isn't about baptisms, yes that is what we do and yes that is what we want to do, but the baptisms don't mean anything if they don't stick around, if there is no testimony, if there is no love. The mission is loving, the mission is serving, this mission is lightening someone's day by living the gospel.

I want to finish this great week with something that hurt , yet changed me for good. We were eating lunch in a house the size of our living room, everyone was getting ready for church as we ate. I told the Sister 'Thank you, the food was great!' And then I was completely changed for the impact me and my companion had made by being AND EXPRESSING gratitude. She turned to us, put the spoon of rice down, and said with such a spirit of sincerity 'Was it really good? My husband never tells me that. Thank you.' Do the little things, say thanks, eat all the food on your plate, say hello, tell them it was great (even if you had to gag it down or slide it to their dogs... haha just kidding) and you can really make the world a better place by putting the Gospel of Jesus Christ in action.

I love you all, I love this mission! There is no better decision in the world, no matter how tough, than serving a mission because you will learn and feel more than you could EVER do sitting at home minding your own business. Even if you live a good life. Serve a mission and the Lord will carry you. Stick around at home when you had the chance and... well, the Lord will still carry you, but oh the life you just missed.

I love the work, it is work. I love the blessings, they do come. I love the help of the Lord in making this companionship a friendship and the work a beauty and pray for you all daily!

Elder McGinn

Monday, March 7, 2011

Email - March 7, 2010

Well a big hello to you all from Ecuador, the land that parties more than Griffin and a package of Fruitsnacks! Today starts Carnaval... there is no work until Thursday. It is against the law to dump water on people... they don't listen. They color the water with everything and anything that stains. We live at the riverside. I am a Gringo and wear a bright white shirt... let the races begin, haha. Wish me luck-- in the past President kept the elders inside, this year we are free to roam. This... Syd, is when I put my tree cat action into play.

What a week! I'm excited for the adventure of Carnaval. I haven't decided who we're going to be this week, Samuel the Lamanite as water passes from side to side in the form of water itself, water balloon, water gun, mud, or beer; or if we'll play kinda like Moses and separate the waters and the people as they come haha. But today starts a week of no work and soaking anyone and everyone in sight. The good thing is that we're missionaries in bright white T Shirts haha... I'll fill you in next week.

This week was AWESOME, the Lord really blesses you as you not simply pray, not simply read the scriptures, not simply go to Church or the Temple, but as you put it all in practice and Endure HOPEFULLY to the end. I have been looking for the way to really make friends with my companion. It's hard for him, he is from Ecuador, he loves the music and dancing, he's negative. I was real impatient at first, it really got to me, so I changed. That's the key to life. When he dances and sings, I do too, I sing 'How Firm a Foundation' at the top of my lungs haha, sometimes he joins in, sometimes just ups his volume too, but whatever it is, we laugh. When he's negative, I act like an annoying teacher, 'Now Elder, what words are we not going to be using this week?' tip for all of you. Don't simply endure, enjoy. If you can't enjoy, pray for the help and humbly keep your mouth shut when you'd rather jump on the situation in anger or frustration. Simply smile. Humility is a worldly weakness, but a spiritual strength. 'Bend at it, sweat at it, smile at it too; for after the bend, the sweat, and the smile, comes life's victories after a while.'

We have 3 or 4 baptisms prepared for this week and should have 7 by the end of March. President is really going to check up on us... the Young Women really work and give us so many references, with the 7 baptisms we have planned... 6 are young women, haha. Anyway, I love the work. Yeah it's a challenge, I hurdled. How did I do well when started at the beginning in tears of frustration with an hour of practice without clearing one hurdle? Patience, optimism, persistence, changing my outlook to see the sunny side up. And when push comes to shove, you just limber like a tree cat and hope all turns out, haha.

Anyway, to finish up this Epistle, the Lord loves you all, He has your lives in His hands. Go to Him in prayer, then seek the answers during the day. The Lord guides us, but how many times do we pray and go our own way. The Lord put a man in our path this Sunday. He simply came into the church cause his Aunt in Colombia is a member. He has no money, clothes, or food and was looking for the way home. He's been here 4 days barely surviving. His past is huge, but that should satisfy this story. We simply talked to him outside, he didn't want to enter. We taught him to pray, we said a prayer for him, us three on our knees. I love you all so much and am having the time of my life in Vinces!

Wish me luck with Carnaval!

Elder McGinn

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Email - February 28, 2010

And then there was one... So what an adventure this week has been. It really has been an adventure. One day we took off on a bus for 1 hour, divided with the members and the 4 elders in our house, and about conquered the whole village! It has been fun having 4 elders in the house instead of being me and my trainer or my little one haha.

Each day is different, but I'm learning a lot about myself and a lot about the Savior. I was touched in thinking that the best way to become like the Savior is simply keep your Baptismal Convenants. You live your week with Him in mind, you really try to live like Him, and you keep His commandments. As you fall, you repent, you see how He would've handled the situation better, and bit by bit you truly come to be the Child of God you are.

I want to tell you of a few experiences this week, the few times I really felt the spirit and was sure of it. One is in True Missionary Work. My companion walks really fast and we pass so many people daily. We passed two men sweating and shoveling dirt, I stopped and we returned to give them a hand. They said 'no, but he'd like some help in trying to get the missionaries away haha. So we turned to a man and his sister sitting in the shade and simply opened up a conversation. I've never seen them before, never seen them since, but the impact we had on their lives forever changed me and it came from following a simple whisper. We sat down and in simply conversation came to find that they recently lost a brother and their mother. They had many questions as to why we are here and what is happening with their relatives. They had never thought that we lived in heaven before coming here. It was the perfect situation that any missionary could ask for and I felt a burning spirit of hope as we left them a little pamphlet to read of the Plan of Salvation. What touched me most of all was when this man, Hugo, ASKED US as we finished up... 'wait, so what is my purpose here? I really want to know!' We haven't seen them since, but we brought hope into a few lives that day, we lifted the faith, we followed the spirit. Better Said.. we were missionaries that afternoon.

Know that I am so happy here in the field, that it has been such an adventure that I would never trade for anything! Christ lives, the marks in his hands, feet, and side are deep, they are real, what they contain is more than we can ever imagine. He is your Savior and He loves you.

Elder McGinn