Hey, Well how are you all doing... I am a little short on time here so I am going to make this email as good as I can in the thirty minutes I`ve got!!!!! Well from my title I hope that you all are as happy as I am to see those numbers... I complete 11 months in the mission tomorrow and I honestly can`t believe how fast the time has flown... It seems like yesterday I was bawling my eyes out in Provo saying goodbye to you all. Or when I stepped out of the airport here in Guayaquil and having the heat smack me in the face letting me know it was going to be a HOT 18 months!!! I don`t know what I am going to do to celebrate my 11 months here in the field... But I have a feeling it is just going to be like any other day... But who knows... I might get my Christmas and Birthday packages tomorrow. Wouldn`t that be cool! Well this week has been wonderfully crazy!!! But mostly it was a wonderful week! We have been contacting EVERYONE that we can find and we are talking to EVERYONE that we see. I kind of feel like we are two flies buzzing around bugging everyone and telling them that we have an important message for them. Some people are nice and others are not so nice but we are getting used to the rejections. Which is okay. But this week the Guatapi family got baptized!!!! We honestly couldn`t have asked the Lord for anything more. Sometimes in the mission you really work and work and teach and teach and it seems like you are walking around sweating all day and not accomplishing anything... But in our three weeks here in Duran we found a family that was so prepared for the gospel that we didn`t even have to really teach them. When we would teach them they accepted everything and they even read and really prayed about the things that we were teaching them. They are such an awesome family and we were so blessed to work with them. I honestly can`t believe that the Lord has blessed us so much. I am so grateful for this opportunity to be a missionary and help people who are really searching for the truth. Yesterday when we were at their house we taught them about the ten commandments again because they still have images of the nino Jesus and the virgin Maria up. So we stressed the part about not having idols. They got it this time but they seemed a little sad. I mean they have had these images in their house for their whole lives and us telling them 'we don`t worship idols' and 'we don`t pray to images' was a little tough. But you know what this family did? Hermano Guatapi stood up and said, "Tiene rason" (you're right) and took a couple of images down. I am just so impressed by the faith that this family has. They really are prepared and are willing to live the gospel. This week we had our Stake Conference and it was really nice to listen to the messages that were given. I just love conferences... I can`t wait till the next General Conference. I feel like such a gospel nerd but it is so interesting now that I am on my mission. I really feel like I am finally feasting upon the words of Christ... Where as before I was just going through the motions or I was just nibbling at the feast that was placed before me. At our Stake Conference our stake president asked for two people to give their testimonies. He called on a 19 year old who is about to go on his mission. This 19 year old gave a good testimony but he was a little haughty and prideful saying that he was fully prepared for the task of a mission and that he had studied all that he could about the gospel. Well he gave a lot of personal experiences and didn`t really testify about many things. Then our stake president called on the stake patriarch.* Well I was just so impressed he testified very simply but the whole room was filled so strongly with the spirit. He then suggested that we all should read the Book of Mormon more frequently and we should apply it`s teachings in our lives. My companion is from Guayaquil and she knew the patriarch before the mission and told me that this man has read the Book of Mormon about 350 times. I was so impressed that he was so humble. It really made me realize what a testimony is all about and made me realize that your testimony doesn`t have to be flashy with personal experience or doctrine that blows out of the water. It is better when the message is simple so that everyone can understand and it gives room for the spirit to work. I love this work and I don`t think I will ever get tired of it. I am so blessed to be in the mission at this time of my life. It is really shaping my character and making my testimony even stronger. If there is anyone who chooses not to serve a mission just because they don`t want to, is making the biggest mistake! Get out here!!! The Lord needs all of us and it doesn`t matter how well prepared we are... The Lord will make us an instrument in his hands if we let him. This call to serve is a call to love the Lord. I have found that to be true and the more we serve the more we will feel of his love!!! I know that this church is true and that Christ lives and loves us. I love you all more than I miss you!!! Love Hermana Welch #1 (Jess)
*one patriarch is called in each stake to give patriarchal blessings to the members who desire to know what the Lord would have them do. A patriarchal blessing is regarded as personal scripture for the member that receives it.