Tuesday, May 22, 2018

Finding Joy in our Labors!

Heavenly Father sent us this family of 12 that I LOVE very much!!
This week was a great week to be a missionary! So this was the first week of full work. Well almost...because the other weeks there has been at least one bus ride but this week (on Sunday) we had to come to Quito for a class because Elder Garcia is ending the mission. But we had all week to work and it was super great. So what I want to focus on is this family we found. Their names are Isabel, Juli, Dario, David, Joselin, Juan, Carlos, Maria, Iri, Ingred, Anai, Tatiana, Ikel haha I made a goal to get each one of their names down and I achieved it! But we found this family from only contacting doors and in the streets. We contacted the husband a few weeks back and contacted their house and told us to come back. We were a bit stressed on Saturday because we were praying for new investigators to teach....and Heavenly Father gave us 12 of them!!!! Oh man it was so nice to see all the kids and the parents gathered around on our little sermon on the mount. They don't understand much. I am not going to lie...but what I LOVE is they feel it. I feel like I am teaching a primary class because of so many kids! But they are all so excited to be listening. I don't know if it is just because this is the first Gringo they have seen speak some Spanish or because they are actually interested in what we share haha but we will take what we can get!! The first visit I was like "Let's take a picture!" And then they said "Okay!!" And from then on we have taken a picture every single time we have been there. We had a ward celebration for Mothers Day and it was supposed to start at 6:00 and this family of 12 showed up at 6:15! And there was no one other than the leaders of the church and us missionaries haha. I was thinking to myself...man this is going to be embarrassing...but slowly more people started coming and more started talking to the family and soon enough it was truly like a ward family. Man, I love the unity in this little branch of ours! I can truly testify where true joy comes from. I remember in Alma when it was talking about his joy in his labors and then he started writing about his joy when he found out about his brethren and their success and that his joy was full. Yes we can have joy when we have success in our own lives, but our joy is FULL when our loved ones have success.

I think a lot about parenting...I don't know why haha but being a missionary I feel a lot like a parent. Maybe I am doing the mission wrong lol. Anyways I see advantages and disadvantages of being a parent. Super, super stressful I can only imagine, but there is an opposition in all things. So with that stress comes a fullness of joy also. Man, the mission is great. It teaches so many great things and puts me or anyone in the optimal position to learn. I know its not the mission that is changing me...it's Christ. I am so glad to be serving. To be changing. Its a privilege and I know each one of us can also be changed. I love you all so dearly. Thank you for your prayers and support. Keep on keeping on!
Elder Reynolds
~Ward Mothers Day Celebration~
We can't dance with the rest so we were in charge of the food!
Don't know if that was a good idea...hahaha
But who can resist perfect charcoal cooked chicken from a professional gringo raised in USA?!

Wednesday, May 16, 2018

Happy Mother's Day!

Celebrating Mothers Day with some of the best mothers in Ecuador!
Hello Everyone!
So this week of course was an amazing week! Got to talk to the family so it was very special. Weird how its already my last one! Gotta say at the end of the call it was weird thinking that I didn't say "see you in 6 months"...rather I said "Hug you soon!" haha Man I love my family. This week was another busy week of traveling. Here in the orient we are pretty far away from each other as missionaries so we travel a lot. Gives us a lot of thinking time which can be good and bad lol. So I had to give a talk this Sunday and I was thinking hmmm, what should I talk about..haha didn't need much revelation for that topic! Obviously Mothers! So I decided for this week I would simply share my talk with the United States lol Forgive me for my Spanglish and if it doesn't make perfect sense lol Hopefully my parents will edit it before they put it on for all to read. Well, usually I send this to my Mom but I am sending it to my Dad because my Mom would never publish something about her. She is so humble. So hopefully my Dad can manage to do it! haha
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Good Morning Brothers and Sisters. It is such a blessing to be with you today. So, to introduce myself a little, I am Elder Reynolds. I am from the United States and am pleased to be here in the Puyo Rama. I do have to say that this little Rama has power. I have known throughout my life and throughout my time on the mission many wards and branches. With church attendances varying from 60-200 people. But I have never felt the spirit more strongly than I have in this little branch we have here. Thank you so much for your examples and for your love. I truly do feel like family here. So thank you. Today I would like to talk about Love. Usually when you think about love your mind goes straight to the movies...where 2 people meet up somewhere and magically fall in love. Or maybe a hug that brings a warm feeling to someone or a kiss between 2 lovers. What that definition may be to some, I want to refer to what the scriptures have to say about love. In the guila de las escrituras (Topical Guide) it says:
Amor
Vease tambien Caridad; Compasion; Enemistad
Profunda devocion y afecto. El amor a Dios comprende devoocion, adoracion, reverencia, temura, misericordia, perdon, compasion, gracia, servicio, gratitud y bondad. (see also Affection; Benevolence; Brotherhood and Sisterhood; Charity; Family, Love within; Fellowshipping; Friendship; God, Love of; Grace; Kindness; Marriage, Continuing Courtship in; Neighbor)
What I want to focus on a little bit is the service portion. I heard a quote once from a 70 that says something like faith without works is dead, just as love without service is dead. Don't get me wrong, it is just as important to tell someone that we love them as it is to serve them. But I believe that this world can use a bit more of showing love rather than saying it. As there are a lot of dogs here in Ecuador...more than enough! They are one of the top choices to be used as a source of therapy...because people feel loved by them. I am just speaking for myself but I have never heard a dog say "I love you." Rather they show their love. They are always there for you no matter what happens. That is love through service. Simply just being there. Also to relate the message to what was taught in General Conference about Ministering...we need to be more of ministers rather than simply members or home teachers. I know that President Russell M. Nelson is a prophet and has shown that love throughout all his life. May we be more loving through the service and the acts that we do daily. And the thing is it doesn't have to be something huge. Service isn't always a planned service project where we spend half of the day helping someone move or do farm work or something. Service is manifested in a number of ways...most of which the most profound are through random messages and calls when least expected. Now the second pare of the definition was about the best example this world has ever seen of pure love. Of course our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. El maximo ejemplo del amor de Dios hacia Sus hijos se encuentra en la expiacion infinita de Jesuscristo. (The greatest example of the love of God toward His children is found in the infinite atonement of Jesus Christ). I know that Jesus loves me. He died for each one of us...not only died for us, but suffered, and served in our behalf all His life. It is the love that He has for us that carried Him through the suffering in Gethsemane. Maybe in those moments where He thought of giving up...He remembered my face, and yours...and thought "I can't let Elder Reynolds down." I love him. Love has power. Just as it carried Jesus Christ through the hardest thing that anyone has ever had to do. It can also carry us through the hard things in this life. Love is the most powerful motivator know to man. Of course I can't talk about Love without bringing up the word Charity. The most well-known scripture of charity is found in Moroni 7:45-47
45 "And charity suffereth long, and is kind, and envieth not, and is not puffed up, seeketh not her own, is not easily provoked, thinketh no evil, and rejoiceth not in iniquity but rejoiceth in the truth, beareth all things, believeth all things, hopeth all things, endureth all things.
46 Wherefore, my beloved brethern, if ye have not charity, ye are nothing, for charity never faileth. Wherefore, cleave unto charity, which is the greatest of all, for all things must fail--
47 But charity is the pure love of Christ, and it endureth forever; and whoso is found possessed of it at the last day, it shall be well with him."
What is this scripture trying to get across? I think the most underlying characteristic of charity is the face that there are no conditions. This level of love does not have an end. A love unconditional. When Jesus Christ died and suffered for us, did He do it expecting in return that we would come to Him? NO. He didn't expect anything in return. He did it to give us the chance of eternal life. He doesn't expect anything from us. He HOPES that we may come to Him and use the atonement. But He never forces anyone. He died with the hope and desire that we would accept it but without obligation. There are no expectation in charity. For example, I say I love my companion...but somethings I find myself thinking "if I make breakfast for him today, he better make breakfast for me tomorrow." I feel like at times we get caught up in serving and loving to get something out of someone. But just like Jesus, we should do it because we love them. So without question we all can agree that Jesus was the perfect example of charity...or pure love. But right under Him, I believe the next group of people that stand out are Mothers. Mothers are so amazing. More than we know and recognize. They are so underappreciated and I think that's what makes them so great. They love without conditions. The most amazing example of charity to me is my mother. I love her dearly and miss her. Throughout her life she has shown me charity. Even though she is not here, I am going to brag on my mom and the impact she has had on me. I know that all moms are special, but for me my mom is the most special. So I want to read again Moroni 7:45 but this time with your own mother in mind...
45 "And charity suffereth long, and is kind, and envieth not, and is not puffed up, seeketh not her own, is not easily provoked, thinketh no evil, and rejoiceth not in iniquity but rejoiceth in the truth, beareth all things, believeth all things, hopeth all things, endureth all things."
I have a special experience with my mother. Before the mission I have to admit I wasn't the best person. I wasn't following the path as much as I could've. After high school I decided to defer going on a mission thinking instead of my passion of playing football. Throughout my high school career, my mom would always lovingly remind me of this priesthood duty to serve a mission but never obligated me. From the time that I was keeping the commandments when I was living under the roof of my parents and to the time I was alone, living on my own in an apartment at college. I never felt unloved by my mother. I knew she was disappointed in my decision to not go on a mission but that never made her love me any less. Never did I find myself without her love. I remember getting random texts and calls from her and although I didn't respond every time, I did know she loved me. She never put expectations on me. She knew my potential and longed that I would make the right decisions to reach it, but never, ever, ever did she stop loving me. And as in all the good stories of love go, here I am on a mission...living happily ever after. Thanks to an unconditional love from an outstanding mother. Another scripture reference I love is found in 1 Nephi 11:16-22
16 "And he said unto me: Knowest though the condescension of God?
17 And I said unto him: I know that he loveth his children; nevertheless, I do not know the mean of all things.
18 And he said unto me: Behold, the virgin whom though seest is the mother of the Son of God, after the manner of the flesh.
19 And it came to pass that I beheld that she was carried away in the Spirit; and after she had been carried away in the Spirit for the space of a time the angel spake unto me, saying: Look!
20 And I looked and beheld the virgin again, bearing a child in her arms.
21 And the angel said unto me: Behold the Lamb of God, yea even the Son of the Eternal Father! Knowest thou the meaning of the tree which they father saw?
22 And I answered him, saying : Yea, it is the love of God, which sheddeth itself abroad in the hearts of the children of men: wherefore, it is the most desirable above all things."
I absolutely love this scripture. The spirit who testifies of all truth and has all power to do everything is showing Nephi what the love of God is. Out of all the things they spirit could have showed him, he shows him the picture of a mom holding her baby. I can only imagine my mom hold me and each one of my brothers and sisters with the loyal commitment to each one of us that she was going to do all in her power to take care of us and no matter what happens...LOVE us. I can testify that up until now, she has kept this promise. She is amazing in her unrelenting love. Now a last characteristic that I would like to point out from my amazing mom is the sacrifices that she has made. I do not even know close to all the sacrifices she has made in order to make me and my brothers and sisters happy. But I do know they are endless. She never thinks of herself. She is always...ALWAYS..putting us first and in front of whatever situations she has come across. I want to share one last scripture. I know I am sorry I am using so many scriptures. Actually it's for a special reason...a secret to anyone that is giving a talk is use scriptures because they take up more time and make the talk a bit longer...hahaha...anyways what I want to share is John 15:13 which says:
13 Greater love has no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.
My mom has sacrificed her life for me. As we all know pregnancy is not an easy thing. It is a big painful process that hurts the body and takes a lot of time to recover...if even possible to recover fully. My mom was an amazing volleyball player in high school. She was playing at a college and had the potential to do great things in this volleyball career of hers. She and her amazing talents could've taken her wherever she wanted to go. But instead of her sport, she chose the family. She chose to start a family and although I can still see the passion that she has in volleyball...she has never looked back. She has never shown me that her passion was ever more important than us kids. I can totally relate to her as my passion is football. She is an example to me more than she knows. She always, always loves us kids and the family more than anything else. She has given her life...her whole life so that I may exist and live her on this earth. She just didn't put it on hold..she put it out...she hung up the phone..she said I'm done. She has this great amount of love. Of which I am so grateful for. I love my mom. She has impacted me so much in my life. I love the living example she gives so that I am able to see the amount of love. I know that there are so many great mothers out there and I applaud you and thank you so much for the sacrifices you have made. Mothers are something special. Mothers cannot ever be replaced. I love you all. I thank you for your examples...especially you mothers. I want to close with a quote by President Thomas S. Monson...it's not a direct quote, but it goes something like this..."never assume that someone (or in this case, your mom) knows that you love them. Tell them. And then after telling them, tell them again..." May we all be better at showing our love, especially towards our mothers. I know this gospel is true. I am thankful for the scriptures and what they teach us about everything we need to know and do in this life. I love you all.
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That was a rough draft of what it was but I hope everyone thinks of their mom and follows their example! I love you all!! Have a great week and...HAPPY MOTHERS DAY!
Elder Reynolds
Our last Skype with Elder Reynolds!!
These kids are my world! They are so fun, talented, loving, caring, hard working, kind, thoughtful people. They have taught me many things in life. Love them with all my heart <3

Elder Reynolds' nephew...Kai Hunter :)

~P-DAY ADVENTURES~
Ahhhh...SO COOL! Way better than the other rope swing we did!

~Live with No Regrets~
A M A Z I N G !!!

Thursday, May 10, 2018

FORGET ABOUT YOURSELF!

It was Labor Day here in Ecuador. A parade that took place right outside our house!
Hello Everyone!
Wow this week was long yet short. Definitely a hard working week that required a lot of depending on the Lord. I truly can testify that when we are on His errand, He will hold us up. There were various times where not only did I not have much desire to carry on...but also didn't have energy to do so! Something about this jungle air that just drains me. Definitely a miracle that I am still alive and able to write this email! haha. To be honest with all, I am a hypocrite ha. Let me give the background. So for the past 2 weeks I have been bumming it in the house. No not because I am lazy, but because I couldn't go out in the sun and the wind. It was a huge bummer because I couldn't even read, only talk to my companion. So I took to sleeping because fortunately the time went by much faster. I listened to talks and just sat there like a vegetable. Probably the worst 2 weeks of my entire mission. I was thinking that by the time I could work again, I would be dying to get out and work my tail off! And to some degree that was true...but that quickly wore off within an hour of much rejection from the people. I ended up feeling sorry for myself and asking why am I out here and will I ever enjoy missionary work again...I know so dramatic lol. I was constantly looking for excuses to not go out and not give it my all...which in my opinion is probably the worst thing. Maybe even worse than not doing it at all. But after a few days of sinking into this routine, I knew something needed to change or I would die. We were having companionship inventory and my companion said "You are a great missionary. One of the best companions I have worked with, but something is bothering you. Something is holding you back from being the best you can be." That struck me to the heart. I thought I was holding it all in pretty well and not showing weakness. He then asked "What is wrong?" I completely opened up to him and told him what all was happening in life and everything. Man, I love Elder Garcia. He then told me that he has experienced exactly what I was going through and wanted to go home. But then he talked to President Barlow and the most well known advice known to missionaries...OLVIDARSE DE SI MISMO...(FORGET ABOUT YOURSELF) I have always heard that and knew that was the key but when it was time to live it. That's where the ugly hypocrite side of me showed. I pondered throughout the week if I really was forgetting myself. If I really was serving a mission or was simply on a mission. If I was doing what Jesus Christ himself would do if He was here. If I was putting others above me and my problems. The spirit was super strong as to tell me very kindly yet firmly that No....I was not doing that. After the conversation and repenting of the selfish person I had been, I felt a new light. I felt a new motivation. I knew why I was here and why I was working. I think that's the most beautiful thing that one can realize and do. Find out the why. Because when we find out the why and really understand the why, we will quickly find the how...(the how to accomplish it). That's something from Elder Bednar. Life as a Latter Day Saint isn't convenient. I don't think it was ever suppose to be. But the moment we give our ALL, not leaving a little portion aside just in case we fail, the moment where we forget ourselves and serve others..that is when we find happiness. Ahhhh all of this sounds so cliche. And it is for a reason...because it works! I feel so dumb for not doing this all in the first place. But it's okay...we all learn one way or another haha. Once again I feel so much joy in the work. Life still isn't rainbows and daisies all the time but there is joy in everything we do. I love a quote by Ezra Taft Benson that says "The Lord works from the inside out. The world works from the outside in. The world would take people out of the slums. Christ takes the slums out of people and then they take themselves out of the slums. The world would mold men by changing their environment. Christ changes men who change their environment. The world would shape human behavior, but Christ can change human nature." I am so grateful for the way the Lord works. May we all continue to change so that the world can benefit from our light. I love you all so much and thank you for your prayers. Stay strong. It's hard out there...but we are meant to succeed!
Elder Reynolds
17 Months out in the Mission
P U Y O  E C U A D O R
~Oriente Zone~
MISAHUALLI
We went to this beach type thing and it was sooo cool.
There were monkeys running around everywhere and we got to feed them.
Super super COOL!!
Welcome to Tena! This is a city in the Amazon rainforest.
Know as the "cinnamon capital" of Ecuador.
So apparently Oranges here are Green...kinda defeats the purpose of the name, right?!
It's a Jungle out there!

Wednesday, May 2, 2018

New Companion--Elder Garcia...Puyo Ecuador!

Elder Reynolds and Elder and Hermana Jones
Hello Everyone!
So I am in Puyo now. It's the jungle part of Ecuador! It is so cool because everywhere you go it seems like you are in a movie haha. It is soooo hot here. The only down part is the bugs...they are pretty much everywhere, but luckily I can't see very well so I don't notice the food moving at all. For example, we were eating at a members house yesterday and my companion wasn't eating really at all and I was like that's odd. Then we left and he said to me "I can't believe you ate that!" I was like "Oh man, what did I eat, do I want to know?" And then he said "It was some raw meat and the rice was moving!" haha who knew that rice was a living animal lol?? But all is good. My new companion's name is Elder Garcia. Elder Mooney and I spoke English all the time to each other, now it's back to speaking all Spanish! It is his last change and he is super ready to work! Which makes me even happier. It's back to cold showers here even though it is pretty hot during the day, at night it gets a bit cool as all the sweat kind of cools and you just want a nice warm shower instead of freezing cold lol. One of the cool things here is that you don't have to wear a suit on Sundays! That's pretty nice. On my way here, I was thinking about that and how it's going to be a long 3 hours but tender mercies of the Lord allow us to wear just a simple shirt and tie.

This week I was able to more or less get back in the routine. I was able to start reading again and man did I read and read and read. I didn't know how much I missed reading lol But what I did notice is the absence of spiritual feasting. Even though we were visiting people everyday and serving the Lord  actively...I can testify that nothing can compensate for the lack of reading. I felt that daily hungriness of spiritual food haha. I am such a nerd now but I love it! I love the Book of Mormon and how it applies to our day. I love how a lot of the prophets in the Book of Mormon saw our day and wrote accordingly. With that knowledge, I have come to gain a deeper testimony of the Book of Mormon. I think often times we look beyond the mark and try to do crazy different things when the answer is right in front of us. I don't have any cool crazy spiritual experiences this week, just daily little miracles that makes a testimony grow. We are traveling back to Quito for a meeting with President Barlow. It takes about 7 hours to get back to Quito so yay lol! But here we are still trucking along no matter what comes our way. More stories to come the next week!
Elder Reynolds

Update on his eye: He had to go back to the doctors on Wednesday and they had to take out 5 stitches that weren't dissolving. He said that was the worst because it hurt so bad. They put some little dinky drops and were like alright lets take those suckers out! He has a check-up this week, praying that all will be done with and he heals quickly and complete. 
Elder Reynolds is a zone leader and is currently in the Oriente Zone. He said the zone is like 12 hours in every direction so lots of buses! 
Waiting right before the surgery!!
Listening to Elder Jones tell how surgeries went bad... :o
Looks like Elder Mooney is the one having the surgery!
The night before, he had slept with his contact lens and when he woke up in the middle of the night, he took them out and it ripped in his eye.
Right after surgery!
Trying to get that smile for the camera lol
This is the doctor who did the surgery...Dr. Armando Sandoval
It was pretty weird just being able to walk right out of surgery without anesthesia or something...
Rocking my cool new glasses...
with my blind guide lol
Elder Reynolds, look this way for the picture!!
After having to fast, it was great to get some F O O D!!
My first meal :)
My companion feeding me. It's crazy not knowing what you are eating!
I was fed by him for a day and a half.
I'm so thankful he was full of charity!!
The day I was blind...RIP
Me trying to get around the house with our made up blind man stick
Elder Mooney...Companion of the Year!!!!
A long week of sitting in the house,
listening to talks over and over!
We were pretty bored!
In the church but not really knowing where I am haha
~Companionship Unity Award~
Getting my pirate on hahaha
Arrrrgh!
First day of seeing again! Man it was the worse...I thought it was going to be nice but it hurt so bad lol
Elder Reynolds has never had an eye exam so this was all new to him.
I got 12 stitches in that little sucker!
The doctor had these Urim and Thummim looking glasses!
B E F O R E . . . 
A F T E R . . .
Ohhhhhhh O U C H
I'm someones "blind date" lol
With wearing these glasses, everyone thinks I am blind so I'm telling my story over and over!
Ecuador Memories
It was funny because Elder Jones commented to me that he wants these glasses after I get done wearing them haha!!!!
I was a nurse for a day! haha These were my companions for Wednesday. I went around everywhere with them...running around the hospital lol
Can't forget those dirty bathroom pics haha
Elder Mooney is so funny lol

We are some cool missionaries ha
About a week...
after surgery!
Traveling alone to Puyo!
It's a 7 hour bus ride...here we go
View from our house
P U Y O  E C U A D O R
~Oriente Zone~