Monday, April 29, 2013

My Favorite Conversations

These pictures are from Elder Martin, they are from like a week or two ago. We went to a place called Cuicocha, a lake in a crater. The pictures are from Elder Martin's camera. He isn't my companion, but my ZL. We spent kind of a lot of time with them last week on exchanges and on the pday activity.

This week started slow because Elder Walker and I were a little sick. Things got better and we got in some good lessons with some less actives. San Roque is still tough for me because it is so different than my other sectors. We are trying to contact folks just in the streets, but they aren't very responsive. The good thing is that my companion likes to have fun so gettin back home and studies in the mornings are fun and it helps carry me through the dusty days. We have 2 service projects planned for this coming week for Tuesday and Wednesday. I am pumped for the services, it is fun to work in a different way. There isn't a whole lot of news here, things are just pluggin along. We learned a little bit of Kichwa yesterday from a sister who teaches Kichwa. That'll be fun to apply this week. My favorite conversations are explaining the basics to people about their eternal identity and destiny; something that most other religions don't touch on.

Monday, April 22, 2013

Week 2 in San Roque

Things are flying by. We are doing our best to get to know all the members, less actives, WHILE finding new people to teach, but it is coming along OK. It has kind of been the routine for 20 months. Elder Walker is from Farmington, Utah and we have a lot in common. The things that are fun about here is the amount of service projects we get to do because everyone has fields to harvest, houses to build, or any sort of other tasks. We harvested some peas and beans on Wednesday, wired on the rebar supports for building a second floor of a house on Friday, and then on Saturday we were putting buckets of materials into the cement mixer and then it would be hoisted up to the second floor for construction. That one was the hardest. 3 buckets of rock, one of cement powder, 3 of sand within 2 minutes. We were just working like dogs. I am beat today.

We had a baptismal goal set for 3 kids of the Picuasi family, but it seems like there is a lack of desire for the whole family to come back to activity in the church. If you guys could pray a little bit for them it would be great.

I am a litte down on the health, I have a fever but things are looking up.

We had a really fun secret pday activity with the 4 missionaries who did not go and play soccer last week. we went to Cuicocha, a crater lake with 2 islands in the middle. I would send the beautiful pictures, but there are like 20 people on this same internet connection and it takes like 30 mins to upload each picture. I sent a letter like 40 mins ago to Adam, but it still hasn't sent.


Elder Blackwelder

Monday, April 15, 2013

San Roque - A land of skirted women and braided men

I love my sector! These pictures are from my rooftop and everything behind me is my sector. Up to the top of El Volcán Imbabura. You may recognize the volcano from when I was in's the same one. My sector is just one long slope going up from a river down below up to the top.

Elder Walker is awesome and is way pumped to work. Things were tough this week because we were basically opening up the sector. Elder Walker and his past companion had 2 wards to work in, but they worked mainly in one because there were more members there and they got a lot of references. Sadly, Elder walker hardly knew San Roque at all, so we have been working a lot in getting to know the members and less actives along with the sector.
 It has been a long week. I got a bloody nose I think every day, probably because of the altitude and it is not as humid as Tena. But I got on the ball and carry a roll of tissue around in my backpack. I have been trying to learn as much kichwa as I can, and it has been really fun. Every adult speaks kichwa, and the majority of the kids do too. All the church meetings are in Kichwa, and I just love it. These are my people. I spoke in sacrament meeting and told them all that it was really hard for me to leave the wonderland of Tena, but once I got here I could feel a draw to them as a people. I wanted to tell them that ever since I was little I have preferred to have long hair, a manifestation that my spirit is part of their culture (all the men have long braids of shiny, thick black hair), but I thought it may not be appropriate from the stand.

In getting to know less actives, we visited the Tituaña family. The wife is a returned missionary from like 20 years ago and 8 years ago he got baptized and then a year later they were sealed in the temple but shortly thereafter they went inactive and have been for about 7 years... I had asked the husband how many children they have (most here have at least 8, one guy in the ward had 14 kids-11 girls and 3 boys. 3 of the girls passed away, and all the oldest ones are married and have the same ratio of offspring) and he responded 1 little girl (Sulay, 8 yrs) and a little boy who passed away shortly after birth. As we continued talking over corn and beans in came some relatives from Quito. After finishing dinner, we started the lesson. But it was weird because the wife felt bad that now the missionaries are visiting HER and HER family and she had done the same as a missionary. The things we were teaching weren't having much of an affect on them, which is what happens after years of inactivity, but then I just said "Look, you guys have made some serious promises to the Lord. The temple isn't a joke, you both know that. I'd like to tell you a brief story about my life. After finishing a year at the University, I left on a trip with my oldest sister to spend time together before coming here on my mission. After leaving the city, we were in an accident and I woke up in the hospital with a deep feeling that my sister had passed away. I was able to talk with my mom on the phone and she reminded me that we are an eternal family, sealed in the temple. That sealing is only valid for those who complete with all the things that God requires. I know that my sister did all she needed to do, in fact she paid her tithing for the upcoming month the day of the accident, she received her endowments even though she wasn't married, she did her visiting teaching days before pàssing away. I know that she was ready. And now, it is my turn. I have to do my part. I know that I can see her again if I do my part, and that is what I want more than anything. Hermano y hermana, you guys have a little one who is waiting for you. He received a body and fulfilled all that he was sent to do. He is sealed to you and is waiting. Will you do your part? I know that the Savior lives and allows me the chance to repent and do my part so that I can be with my sister again." I had never talked so direct to someone before. It felt so right and all the words came out perfectly, like never before. I know that the spirit speaks through us, I know that it spoke through me. I know that President Ghent receives the revelation to know where I need to serve. As much as I hated to leave Tena, it has all been swallowed up in loving service. Well, that was my highlight of this week. Hope it came out right in english.

I love you guys, I know that I have an eternal family.

Con Amor

Elder Blackwelder

Tuesday, April 9, 2013


Sorry that I didn't write much yesterday. I had to get on the bus quick and get here as soon as I could. I left at 10 am and arrived at 6:30...I don't know why it is so tiring to sit in a bus, but I was wiped out. Elder Walker is great, he is humble and calm. There are a ton of missionaries here opening new sectors because of the influx of missionaries in the world. My zone is called Imbabura and used to have 10 missionaries working 9 wards, but now, there are 18 missionaries, one companionship per ward. I am in the ward San Roque and love it. All around my house is just farmland, I sit at my desk and look up to see the rising flanks of the Imbabura volcano. My sector is just one extensive hill and just keep going up the whole volcano(: everyone here speaks kichwa and often say they don't speak Spanish in order to not have to talk with us...but we'll see what can be done. I'll try to take some pictures and send them to you in the afternoon. We are having p-day today because yesterday the Zone Leader and my companion were running around getting all the new houses ready for the incoming missionaries, but next week it will all be back to normal. Well, that's the update for now, I'll write again later on.

Elder Blackwelder

Monday, March 11, 2013


Finally, a real P-day in the jungle. We have always been traveling from one place to the next and haven't been able to do any sort of activity. But today we rented bikes for $5 and cruised around looking for fun stuff to do. We found a bmx park that was just empty, no one was there and we romped in on our mountain bikes (they were way to heavy to get any real air). I felt like I was in the olympics (: We found another trail by a river and rolled around there too. 

Highlights from the week were 2 service projects. One was collecting (in the states it would be considered stealing) materials for building the foundation of a house. We jumped in a truck with a less active guy and went to the river with shovels to get sand. Coming up to the river there were a few folks on the side of the dirt road gathering something (cacao maybe) and their dog comes bolting at the truck like it was going to chase us, but I didn't hear any barking, I looked in the sideview mirror and it was just laying there in the road...squished. We reversed and this 23 year old native with a long ponytail (Mr. Sink style) comes over and chats with us for a bit. He said "whelp, it's dead now, ain't nothin can be done. It was my mother in law's (with a smile and a chuckle)" haha, pity. We got the sand we needed from the river, which was sooo beautiful and wide and green and deep, and we headed back to the house and went out for another trip to get river rocks from a different river so as to not find the mother in law (:
The next day we went to help a member who lives 2 hours from Tena in a little pueblito. He reminds me of Uncle Dickie. We helped him harvest cacao and remove the seeds from dried corn. He has a sweet little house with hammocks and bamboo and all sorts of fun stuff. Right as we were getting ready to leave, his grandson leaves the house with a little fishing rod and then a piece of wood with some 50 pound test line wrapped around it with a thick 7/0 long shank hook on the end. I longingly asked him where he was going, knowing well what the answer would be. He said his little rod was for catching perch and the big one for putting the perch on as bait for fat catfish...I was so bummed that we had to leave... ): I don't know if you know much about cacao, but it looks like a warty big papaya which you split open with a machete and pull out the dozen seeds that are covered in a juicy white cotton ball (that is what it looks like at least) that is super tasty. Inside is the seed about the size of an almond, and after drying in the sun for a few days the white goop comes off, the seeds are bagged and sold to buyers that drive around the far away communities looking for cacao. A sack full goes for about $60 to $70 and really is a good product to grow. I imagine it gets sent off to Europe to be processed and made into fine chocolates to be distributed throughout the globe. 

We have an investigator, Judith, who is ready for baptism. She is from Cuenca and has a goofy accent, but has been great with listening to us. Well, she loves having us over, but she wasn't applying what we have been teaching her. Last week in our Zone leader meeting, President Ghent talked about how we need to teach the process of repentance more clearly to investigators, to help them feel the spirit in their lives more strongly before baptism. While we were in a lesson with her, she kept talking and talking about things that really weren't pertinent and my companion was just nodding and saying basic agreements, but I felt like we needed to do something more and apply what president told us. So I went for it and tried to help her see what this was all about. That there are things more important than clothes, cars, houses, and relationships; our personal eternal lifespan. I don't really know how to put it all into an email, because I write really poorly, but it was an important moment for her. Sorry that I am so bad at putting spiritual experiences in emails. I always focus on the exciting and adventurous aspects of Ecuador, maybe it's just because those are the parts that are different for me. Every day there are special things that happen that strengthen my testimony in this advancing work. I love reading Preach my Gospel and Jesus the Christ. They make me so happy to be alive in this day when the work is finishing, when the final push is being made to harvest while the field is still white, because swift comes the day of the Lord, and I want my Ecuadorian friends to be ready for it. 

Love Elder Blackwelder

Monday, February 25, 2013

Week 4 in the jungle...all questions answered

The Mission has been divided!!!! Into Quito North and South. Changes won't start until July. The church will be sending lots of new missionaries here!

The weather here is so mild. The heat really hasn't been that bad for me, in the beginning it was, but now it is much more livable and relaxed. Mosquitos haven't been a problem at all, but it sure does rain a lot and there are cool geckos that cruise around the house at night and bark, or chirp... its awesome. OH! this week we were walking down the street and I was on the phone with the branch president, and out of the corner of my eye I saw an older gringo couple walking on the sidewalk in front of us. We had stepped down into the street to walk around them while I kept on the phone and as we passed, I heard the wife say to her husband in a surprised voice, THE Missionaries! We stopped to chat with them and they're from Missouri, but have a grandson that lives in Aliso Viejo! haha He had just left on a mission the 20 of January to Sao Paolo. His name is Brady Allen. They showed me a picture, and I could tell by his hair that he was definitely from so cal, but I didn't really recognize his face very well... good folks. Loved their accents!

Well, the million questions you had...

My companion is Elder Borroel from Southern Mexico, Vera Cruz. He is a good guy, really easy to live with, but I feel like he doesn't ever really stand up for what he wants but just goes with the flow. When his companion is obedient he is obedient, but when his companion is lazy, well he is too. There haven't been any problems yet at all. Just that he isn't much of a "go getter"  kind of a guy.
Yes, we always travel together except for when I came from Quito. Whenever there are transfers we travel alone.
Carnaval is just a holiday when everyone gets each other wet, or throws flour, or paint...those kinds of things. Kind of like a city wide water fight. President Ghent didn't want us to play, so I tried not to, but at the end of the day they painted my face.
I am doing better with my goals, but I find little time to read in the scriptures to fulfill my goal of 9 pages a day to finish before going home.
Service projects are normally just the same things I did at Nonnies's house, gardening projects. Next week I think we are going to help a guy harvest cacao (:
Yes, I am Zone Leader with Elder Borroel here in Tena, and the other Elders in our zone live in Puyo and are in a trio, Elder Condori, Elder Molina, and Elder Quiquivix. I was on exchanges with Elder Condori this weekend, I'll send pictures. He is from Peru, Cusco, and is the only member of his family who is a member of the church. I respect him a lot, spanish is his second language. He is a native of the high andes and speaks quechua. Puyo is 2.5 hours from Tena, but has a way different temperature average because it is higher up, but enjoys the same vegetation because of the high rainfall.
Elder Young was my zone leader from my last sector, he started his mission 6 weeks after me and was in the MTC with Lance Frame. Well, the story is, the Roche's sent me their christmas card, and one day when Elder Young was over, he was complaining about how his girlfriend got back from her mission and wasn't writing him anymore and his family was getting kind of lazy in writing too, so in order to not give him reason to whine, I gave him the address of the Roche's as a joke, but he ended up accepting it and told me he wrote them, but I honestly didn't believe him. He is a great guy and one of the few gringo friends I have made here on the mission. 

There it is. The answers to all your questions (: hahaha


Love, Elder Blackwelder

Monday, February 18, 2013

Week 3 in the jungle

We had a  baptism this week. The cool part is that since we don't have a chapel, we baptized in the river (: There are so many rivers here, it is incredible. The main big ones are really kind of dirty, but taking back roads and walking a little it is easy to find pristine rivers. The baptism was of 2 kids of a less active member, sister Lara, and her husband, Geovanny Rovalino, who is not a member. He lived part of his life in LA and loves to speak english with me. We had a little barbeque afterward to celebrate. I found a gecko and a tucan...pretty cool.

On Friday we had a training meeting in Ambato, the chocolate capitol of the world, We had to wake at 4:00am to get showered and make it there by 10:00. My companion and I slept in Puyo which is a bit closer. Elder Condori, from Peru, came back with me to Tena and my companion, Elder Borroel, stayed in Puyo. Elder Condori and I cleaned out the study room on Sunday. Funny thing, Sunday were the national elections and President Ghent saw it fit that all the missionaries stay inside. It is an obligation to vote, and it has to be done in one's home province, so there was only the first hour of church services so that everyone could travel to their destinations to "sufragar", like the word suffrage in english. So after the one hour of church, we came home and we weren't allowed to we organized things and put all the books into a busted bookcase that we found and cleaned.
We also baked the Cinnamon Cake mix you sent me
Love, Elder Blackwelder

Elder Condori and Blackwelder
admiring their work