Curtis replied on Monday February 9, 2009
It is Monday again. I don’t know if they seem to be coming around fast for you or not, but they do for me. I can’t believe you are almost at your six month mark. It is just two more weeks till transfers again. I hope you and Elder Alcocer are having great success together.
You talked last week of a possible baptism of Mariella in Relicario. I hope she went through with the baptism and that her daughters and niece are progressing towards baptism as well. I think it is really funny that the young girls are all in love with the handsome gringo missionary. It is really quite cute. I know, not from your standpoint! Where did you come up with the word Fetch? Is that your replacement for swear words? Or some Ecuadorian slang?
(no answer)Please tell us about Mariella and her family and what is happening with them.
We have been teaching them a lot. We committed Mariella to be baptized on the 21st and we are fairly sure that she will be baptized that day. We haven´t had a chance to teach her daughters again, but we will try more when Mariella is baptized.
How are Ricardo and Maria doing and their family? You said that one of the other children would turn eight soon. When does that happen? Are they attending regularly?
One of the daughters will turn eight in March. We need to start preparing Ricardo so he can baptize her. Ricardo and Maria were supposed to give talks Sunday in church, kind of fast, but o well, they didn´t come to church. So Elder Alcocer and I gave talks in their place. We have given talks in three of the four Sacrament meetings that Elder Alcocer has been here. The one we didn´t give talks in was Fast and Testimony meeting.
I got a call last week from Inkleys. They replaced your baptized camera with a brand new Nikon Coolpix L18, which is a newer model than your camera was. Your model was no longer available. We haven’t done much with it yet. Clain wants to have it, but we will see. Maybe we will give it to him for his birthday. The new camera is covered by the same warranty as the old one was.
Sweet! So now you can send me my camera, so I can use it. The one I have now takes videos, but not sound with the video.
I have to go to a funeral tomorrow. My mom’s older brother Lee passed away this week. He was suffering from prostate cancer. He has been sick for a few months now. He waited too long to go and have things checked out when he started having problems. The cancer was too far advanced to do much with by the time he got to a doctor. The funeral is in Brigham at 11:00 a.m. My mom has to talk at the funeral, so I am going to support her. I think I will take the new camera and take a few photos with it to see how it works. I want to make sure it is functional, and then if I set it aside till Clain’s birthday, I will at least know it works.
How is your new camera working? Have you taken lots of photos with it? Does it focus better than your last one did or have you learned to focus better?
It has a feature that compensates for hand movement when you take photos.
Have you taken any videos with it?
Yeah, but there isn´t any sound.
I would have loved to see video of “The Mouse Hunt”. You at least looked like you were having fun. When you sent those photos last week, you resized one of them down to a smaller size, but not the second one. I didn’t get the second one until the next day for some reason, probably because it was too big, then it sent my mailbox to 125% of capacity. I had to save the photo and delete the email before I could do anything else with my email. That’s okay, though. It was a great photo.
Did you find boots in size 12 to fit your giant feet? Where did you find them? Tell us about it.
Yeah, I found a pair of boots. There is a place here in Balzar that is called the Baillia or the black market, but this one is small. But they sell all sorts of things there. I bought my boots there for 8 dollars.
How is the weather? Are you getting wet every day? Are you walking in lots of mud?
No, we aren´t getting wet much at all now.
How is your umbrella working? Was it a good one? Some of the other elders have said their umbrellas are not so great.
My umbrella works great. I haven´t had any problems yet.
Have you given any Priesthood Blessings while you have been on your mission? Tell us about them, please.
Yeah I have given a lot. They are starting to get easier to give in Spanish and I am sure that they are easier in English, also.
I am mailing you a package tomorrow morning, Monday. It will be package number 6. It has a furry friend in it with a treasure hidden inside. Unpick the seam on the back side of the dog right under the tail. Pull out your prize and all the extra tissue paper. Then you can sew the seam back up using needle and thread in your sewing kit. Keep it or give it away to someone in need. I know it won’t be your dog of choice, but I couldn’t find much the day I was looking and I didn’t have time for a trip to Cabella’s. Besides you should love this little creature that will have transported your awaited prize safely to you over so many miles. I know you can hardly wait and I am sure you could never guess what the prize will be. You will also find in the package, some photos, cards and three packages of your favorite snacks. Please let us know when you get this package and its condition upon arrival.
Have you received packages four and five yet? What condition were they in?
I got the fourth package with the honey and the peanut butter. It was a little squashed, but not opened, so no problems. I haven´t gotten the fifth package yet. Maybe this week.
Do you have another Zone Conference soon?
Yeah, this week, on Wednesday.
How is your Zone doing? Have you met all of the other new missionaries in the zone and district? Are there any new gringos?
Yeah, we have a new zone leader, Elder Ronnow and also an Elder Smith, the one that was in Pasquales for 6 transfers.
Have you been on any splits lately?
No, but we have one scheduled for this Thursday. I think I will be in Balzar with Elder Verastegui and Elder Alcocer in Empalme with Elder Moran.
How is your branch in Relicario coming?
It is coming. We are spending more time in Relicario and Palestina to help this sector grow.
Do you have many investigators who are progressing?
No, we don´t have many, but we are working on it a lot.
Have they been coming out to church?
Have you spent any time at that drug and alcohol rehabilitation clinic? Tell us about it.
No our leader Missional that is the director of the clinica has been in Pedro Carbo for four weeks now and before that in Guayaquil for 3 months, so we haven´t been working there much at all.
Tell us more about Elder Alcocer. Is he a good missionary? Does he work hard? Are you getting along well? What are his talents and interests?
(no answer - he answered this in the other email.)
Are you healthy and happy?
Yeah. I am healthy and happy!
Do you need or want anything?
Send me my sharpening stone for my knife, please.
What can we do to help you?
More jerky please.
Can we pray for anyone?
What is the very best experience you had this week?
What is the worst experience you have had in Ecuador so far?
Yesterday, it was rough. We had an appointment in Palestina and I taught for five or ten minutes after which the investigator said that he didn´t understand anything that I said. It is hard. Sometimes the people don´t open their mind and listen so they don´t understand anything that I say.
What is the funniest thing that has happened to you so far?
This week I had planned a night when we could go to the Logan temple with Shara, Rob, Michelle and Jeff to do initiatory work. After work on Friday, we headed on our way, then had to turn around and go back home to get the name cards. I forgot to grab them. We headed off again and planned to meet them at the temple and have Clain and Braxton take their vehicle back to Grandma’s in Smithfield to tend Taylor. Shara didn’t get all of my text messages. I should have called her, so when we got to Logan, she was still in Lewiston. About that time, Jeff looked at the temple card he had gotten and it said that they stop doing initiatory work at 6:30. It was already after 7:00. Shara had called to check on it the day before, but the lady must have misunderstood her and thought she meant in the morning or something. Anyway, we ended up not being able to go.
We all met at Grandma’s house and then decided to still go out to dinner like we had planned. We went to a place called, Suboras. It is in the old train station in Logan. I noticed that they had a dish called Arroz con pollo. I remembered that your favorite dish was similar to that, so I thought I would try it. I don’t think it was quite the same as what you described. It had chicken pieces that had been marinated in a tomato sauce, then rice that also had been cooked in a tomato sauce and lots and lots and lots of onions and green peppers. It also had a few slices of avocado to adorn it. It was really quite bland. I didn’t eat a lot of it there that night because we had eaten a whole bunch of chips and salsa while we waited for our food to come. However, I ate some of it on Saturday and the rest on Sunday and it was actually a lot better the second and third times. I think the flavors had blended and mellowed a bit. Plus warming it in the microwave cooked the peppers and onions some more so they were not so strong. I don’t think it compares to the Arroz con menestra y con pollo orno that you described. I do think I get a pat on the back for being brave enough to try something new and different. What do you think?
I think it is different, but the food is a bit bland here. But I like it! The momita Ruiz says that I am the first gringo that will eat anything that she serves and she has been the momita for five or six years now so she has served a few gringos in her time.
Jeff says that most of the food down there is rather bland. They don’t use a lot of salt and pepper or spices in it. Is that true?
It is a bit bland, but it is ok.
Braxton has a soccer tournament in St. George on Saturday, February 14th and Monday, February 16th. We are taking Grandma and Grandpa Goode to Arizona on the same trip. We will drive down on Friday, go to the games on Saturday, take them to Dolan Springs on Sunday then drive back to St. George and stay in a hotel. Then he will have games again on Monday and then we will drive home. We won’t leave St. George till about 5:00 pm on Monday, so we will get back home about 10:00 p.m. or so. It will make for a tired Tuesday, but we should have fun. We are going to try to go to the St. George temple while we are there between games on Saturday. I hope we can do the rest of the initiatories for the 22 males that I have left. Then we can get their endowments finished up.
We are going to go with Shara, Rob, Michelle and Jeff again on February 19th to do endowments in the Salt Lake Temple. Then we will try to setup a time to go and do sealings for all of these names. I think the endowments are all done except for these last 22 male names. I just need to get all of the cards back from everyone.
That means that next Monday, we will have a harder time writing to you. I will still have my blackberry phone so I should be able to email you a little bit on it. I will try to send you a letter before we leave so you have something to read on that Monday.
Are you still having problems with the internet dropping you, because last week you just seemed to disappear again? You didn’t say goodbye to any of us. What happened?
You didn´t write me back and we had other things that we needed to do so I logged off.
Are you wearing your sunscreen? You looked sunburned in the photos?
No, I am not.
Are you protecting your ears and nose?
Have you had to talk in church anymore? What topics? Tell us about them.
Yeah, just about every week I have given a talk and every week in Relicario I give a talk.
What goals have you set for yourself? Are you making progress on them?
We had Stake Conference today and yesterday. It was really good. Elder Spencer J. Condie of the Quorum of the Seventy came and spoke. He was pretty down to earth. I really liked his talks. He spoke today on the theme of “Getting our Families to Higher Ground”. He started with some jokes. His beautiful German wife had spoken before him. He said, “That is the blessing I get for tracting many days in the rain on my mission”. Then he said sometimes we get blessings we don’t deserve. He said President Faust once said, “I have many blessing I don’t deserve, but I have arthritis and I don’t deserve that either.”
He had the children stand to stretch and told them this story while they were standing. I found it on the internet. I think he has used it many times before.
Last summer, (1989) we took our family to the San Diego Zoo, the largest zoo in the world. Our twelve-year-old son, Craig, had never been there, and he was delighted with the variety of birds and reptiles and other animals. But the part of the zoo that especially interested Craig was the area where the lions and the tigers were kept.
It was a sunny day, and the big cats were all fast asleep. My son thought that they should be up growling and stalking around. All the people there seemed to think so too. They were clapping their hands, shouting, and whistling. But their noise didn’t wake up the animals at all. So my son nudged me in the ribs and said, “Dad, give them your whistle.” I have a very, very shrill whistle, and, to please my son, I whistled as loudly as I could. But the lions still didn’t move.
Then I said, “Craig, listen to this.” I imitated the quiet growl of a tiger. Grrrrr!
Those lions perked up their ears and started moving about. The yelling and whistling hadn’t even disturbed them, but the quiet growl of the tiger reached through all the noise of the crowd. I put my arm on Craig’s shoulder and said, “Now you can see why Heavenly Father speaks to us in a still, small voice in such a noisy world.” We’ve referred back to that experience at the zoo a number of times.
It was a very interesting story and he made it more so because he really did whistle his shrill whistle right there in our meeting, twice, two very long, loud blasts. It was as shrill as your dad’s whistle. If anyone was sleeping at that point, they weren’t after he got through whistling.
He concluded this story by telling the children that they need to listen carefully to the Spirit and to reverently reduce the noise in our lives, as Elijah did: “And, behold, the Lord passed by, and a great and strong wind rent the mountains, and brake in pieces the rocks before the Lord; but the Lord was not in the wind: and after the wind an earthquake; but the Lord was not in the earthquake: “And after the earthquake a fire; but the Lord was not in the fire: and after the fire a still small voice.” (See 1 Kgs. 19:11–12.)
Be aware that our Father in Heaven speaks to us more through feelings than through sounds. Be attuned to the Spirit. Allow times during the day, every day, when the Spirit can speak to us. We need to use Sundays to gain new spiritual strength. Sunday is a good day for listening to the Spirit so that we can recognize the still, small voice, just as the lions recognized the quiet voice of the tiger.
Next he told of how the church often has a difficult time translating the name of our church into other languages. Many don’t have a word for Saint in their vocabulary or a word for Latter-Day. He said in Hungarian, they had to settle for the church of the last 24 hours. In Thailand, there was no word for Saints so the closest they could come was the church of Jesus Christ for the privileged people in the day last. He said the church was not very happy with that translation and has continued to look for a better one. They have recently come upon the name of the Church of Jesus Christ for the Holy People of the Day Last.
He then talked about whether we see ourselves as privileged people or are we ready to become holy people.
He said that 90% of the members of the church can reach a temple within 3 hours now. We should go more often. We have temples so close to us.
He said the New Zealand Saints go to the temple once a year. Each member brings a two foot slab of salami, a five pound block of cheese and a couple of rounds of bread for their food for that trip. They come and go to 5 sessions per day for 2 days. They come as privileged people and leave as Holy People. Temple attendance will make us into Holy People.
Next he talked about a story told by Elder Joseph B. Wirthlin.
“On December 26, 2004, a powerful earthquake struck off the coast of Indonesia, creating a deadly tsunami that killed more than 200,000 people. It was a terrible tragedy. In one day, millions of lives were forever changed.
But there was one group of people who, although their village was destroyed, did not suffer a single casualty.
They knew a tsunami was coming.
The Moken people live in villages on islands off the coast of Thailand and Burma (Myanmar). A society of fishermen, their lives depend on the sea. For hundreds and perhaps thousands of years, their ancestors have studied the ocean, and they have passed their knowledge down from father to son.
One thing in particular they were careful to teach was what to do when the ocean receded. According to their traditions, when that happened, the “Laboon”—a wave that eats people—would arrive soon after.
When the elders of the village saw the dreaded signs, they shouted to everyone to run to high ground.
Not everyone listened.
One elderly fisherman said, “None of the kids believed me.” In fact, his own daughter called him a liar. But the old fisherman would not relent until all had left the village and climbed to higher ground.
The Moken people were fortunate in that they had someone with conviction who warned them of what would follow. The villagers were fortunate because they listened. Had they not, they may have perished.”
Then he told us that we needed to make sure to get our families to higher ground.
He said we should commit to pay our tithing. And he told a story about that.
He said we should commit to pay a generous fast offering. He said that fasting and prayer will help us to loose the bands of wickedness. He used the scripture Isaiah 58:6 He challenged any that were struggling with sins like pornography, and word of wisdom issues to take this challenge and overcome that wickedness. Fast and pray, then go to your bishop and make it right.
He told a funny story about milking cows when he was a boy on his grandfather’s farm. The cow kicked him and his grandfather seeing it, took a whip out and whipped the cow and swore at her. Then he said to young Spencer, “The Lord don’t hold it against you if you swear at critters.” But he said he noticed that the farmer down the road was a critter when he stole the irrigation water when it wasn’t his turn, and the democrats was critters. He said we must not let our bad habits keep us down. Overcome them and get to higher ground.
He counseled us to have Family Home Evening, Family Scripture Study and Family Prayer as these will lead our families to higher ground.
He told of one of his favorite scriptures, Luke 24:32. It tells of Jesus talking to the disciples on the road to Emmaus. “And they said one to another, Did not our heart burn within us, while he talked with us by the way, and while he opened to us the scriptures?”
He challenged us to have gospel discussions in our homes about the scriptures as we read them. Daily scripture study puts us on higher ground.
He next talked of the many scriptures that talk of the Savior’s Song of Redeeming Love. He mentioned many of them, scriptures about the atonement.
Then he told a story of going to Oregon to reorganize two stakes into three. He said he interviewed a man that came in with this beautiful shock of pure white hair. He said the man was so happy he was radiant. When he asked him why, he said, “Because I know you are here to call new stake leaders and I know you are not going to choose me.”
That night, he met this man again and his beautiful wife was with him. He said she too, had this incredibly pure white hair and was radiant as her husband was. He asked her to tell him why she was so happy. She told her story to him. He asked her to tell that story in their Stake Conference Meeting the next day. She did.
She said that when her son was 12, he started to do drugs. A friend gave him one pill one day. He liked the roller coaster ride. The next day, his friend gave him another pill. This continued for some time, and then the friend told him that these pills cost money and he would have to start paying to have them. Well that was the time when money started to disappear in their home. It would go missing out of her purse and out of his father’s dresser drawer. Well things got worse. The son made it almost impossible to have family prayer, family home evening, and family scripture study. They took him to a doctor, but the doctor dismissed it saying all 12 year old boys are strange. This stuff continued till he turned 17, making their lives a living hell, then one night, he didn’t come home.
They were sad, but the sweet, spirit of the Lord returned to their home and they could now have family prayer and family scripture study and family home evening. Over time, they would say, “If Steve is still alive he would be 19 years old. Or if Steve is still alive, he would be 25 years old. Or if Steve is still alive, he would be 30 years old.”
One night they received an unexpected call. It was Steve. He said he was living in the gutter in California and he was considering taking his own life. He asked them if they would take him in. They said of course they would and wired him money for a plane ticket.
They waited at the airport for him to arrive. 13 years of worry had changed them, they were older and the hair of each had gone a pure white color. 13 years of living on the street with no vegetables and healthy food had changed Steve, also. They waited for him to exit the plane and kept asking, “Do you think that is him?” Finally, an emaciated, skinny, dirty fellow got off the plane. “Steve?” They called. “Mom? Dad?”
He called. They embraced and they took him home. They bathed him, and shaved him and fed him and his father gave him a Priesthood Blessing. They enrolled him in a drug rehabilitation program.
Why was she so happy now? Because that very week, they were going to meet Steve in Salt Lake to go through the temple with him to receive his endowments. After the meeting, they invited Elder Condie to accompany them to the temple for this special occasion in their lives. He arranged to be able to go. He said that he entered the Celestial Room first, and then came mother, dad and then Steve. Elder Condie said that he had read the Words of the Savior’s Song of Redeeming Love before, but that day, he saw and felt the Song of Redeeming Love. When that which was lost has been returned, it is a glorious thing.
Then he taught, “When you have been sealed to your family, it stays stuck, like a stamp stays stuck to an envelope.” He said that what we do at the veil is much more than a test. Great blessings are pronounced at the veil and he challenged us to listen for those blessings. He quoted this quote from Elder Orson F. Whitney of the Twelve. Elder Whitney said in April 1929 in General Conference:
“The Prophet Joseph Smith declared – and he never taught more comforting doctrine – that the eternal sealings of faithful parents and the divine promises made to them for valiant service in the Cause of Truth, would save not only themselves, but likewise their posterity. Though some of the sheep may wander, the eye of the Shepherd is upon them, and sooner or later they will feel the tentacles of Divine Providence reaching out after them and drawing them back to the fold. Either in this life or the life to come, they will return. They will have to pay their debt to justice; they will suffer for their sins; and may tread a thorny path; but if it leads them at last, like the penitent Prodigal, to a loving and forgiving father’s heart and home, the painful experience will not have been in vain. Pray for your careless and disobedient children; hold on to them with your faith. Hope on, trust on, till you see the salvation of God.”
He told another story about hearing a couple talk in an airport. They had been on a vacation to see 30 cities in 30 days. As they exited the plane in their very first city, the wife saw some Dutch Porcelain dishes that she just had to have. They bought them. They carried the heavy box everywhere with them for the rest of the trip. It was a great pain to get on and off buses and planes and became a great burden to them.
Now they were here waiting in their last airport for the plane to take them home and discussing these dishes. The husband wished they hadn’t bought them. The wife thanked him for lugging them around for her. Then after some silence, the wife wondered out loud where they were going to put them when they got home. They already had melmac plates in the cupboard and china and stoneware in the hutch. There was no place to put the Dutch Porcelain dishes. The husband said he hoped they got broke on the way home so they wouldn’t have to worry about it.
He then likened this to us and all the stuff that we place great value on in our lives. We need to get rid of these burdens and place our efforts on the important things that will get us to higher ground. We need to go from being a privileged people to being a holy people. He challenged us to go to the temple often. Then he bore his testimony. As he did, he said that President Hinckley never referred to the Prophet Joseph Smith in the past tense. He always said, “He is a prophet of God.” He said that even though he is not here with us, he has a great interest in what is going on here on the earth.
He ended by pronouncing a blessing on the congregation. He said, “I give you a blessing that you will have peace in your lives as you draw near to Christ through scripture study, Family Home Evening, family prayer, and temple attendance. You will be on high ground and be protected.”
The meeting ended with the Primary Choir singing the song, “If the Savior Stood Beside Me.”
If the Savior stood beside me, would I do the things I do?
Would I think of His commandments and try harder to be true?
Would I follow His example? Would I live more righteously,
If I could see the Savior standing nigh, watching over me?
If the Savior stood beside me, would I say the things I say?
Would my words be true and kind if He were never far away?
Would I try to share the gospel? Would I speak more reverently
If I could see the Savior standing nigh, watching over me?
If the Savior stood beside me, would my thoughts be clean and pure?
Would His presence give me strength and hope, and courage to endure?
Would His counsel guide my actions? Would I choose more worthily
If I could see the Savior standing nigh, watching over me?
He is always near me, though I do not see Him there
And because He loves me dearly, I am in His watchful care
So I'll be the kind of person that I know I'd like to be
If I could see the Savior standing nigh, watching over me.
It was a really good meeting. I am so glad I was able to attend and to feel the spirit there. I should tell you of the other great talks, but not tonight. It is getting late. It is 11:30 and I have been really trying to get to bed earlier, so I will quit for now. I did write you several very long letters this week on Wednesday. I sent them by Dear Elder, so you will have some to watch for in the next couple of weeks. I will try to send you some more that way this week.
I also wrote a bunch of letters to other missionaries this week who are serving in your mission. I wrote to those that have blogs that I have been reading thanking them for the opportunity to learn more about your mission. I also wrote to Elder Bartolomei and to Elder Bejar thanking them for being such great companions to you. I got a really nice e-mail from Lisa Bartolomei. She said you had written to thank her for the Lemon Bars she sent to you and Blake in the MTC. Thanks for being the kind of son I always wanted you to be. Thanks for being considerate enough to write and thank those who help you along the way.
I love you dearly and I am so very, proud of you. I am so grateful to have the opportunity to be your mother. It is a great blessing to me. I know you are doing your very best to act the part of a dedicated missionary and to bring the spirit into the lives of those you teach. You bring great joy into my heart. Be happy and joyous! Enjoy each and every day! You are loved and appreciated by us and by your Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ. Keep the Holy Ghost with you always.
Love always and forever,