Monday, December 24, 2012

Merry Christmas!

Merry Christmas Eve! We get to video chat with Josh tomorrow for 40 whole minutes, and we are so excited. Josh's email title this week was "Twas the night before Christmas, and all through the streets, not a cat was a-purring, because the dogs eat them there." I have no idea what that's from, and out of context this is really creepy...anyways, enjoy!

Ho, ho, ho!

What is going on world? This week was so-so for us. The baptism we were supposed to have this week fell through because our baptismal font didn't work. You'll remember that I don't like mornings, and at 6:30, trying to fix a font that wasn't working didn't make me the happiest person in the world. But, it's working now, and we'll have the baptisms this weekend. I ate cow's leg. I don't think you understand what I mean. The part of the leg, almost at the hoof. The part with no meat. It's not even skin. I don't know what it is, but it is the grossest thing, without any doubt, that I have ever eaten. It took me six minutes to chew, another three to swollow, and my body got that gross stuff out of me in about an hour. I just can't describe it. And they watched me eat it the whole time, smiling, and saying, "It's so good, right?" The biggest lie I've ever said in my life was the response that followed. "Yes." Then, to top it off, right after, we had a soup with fried chicken skin, spinach, and salt. I almost vomitted, my body couldn't take anymore. In China, we had gross stuff, but nothing like this. I didn't want to eat for like 3 days after this stuff, it was so darn awful. Cow leg. Cow leg? Cow leg. Woof.

Christmas stinks here. There are no decorations anywhere. Not a one. Church yesterday, want to hear the program? Angels We Have Heard on High, sacrament, talks about the Young Men's program, and we sang High on the Mountain Top, and other not Christmas hymns. Nothing invites that Christmas Spirit in Sacrament Meeting like one Christmas song. But, we had a Christmas miracle this morning. Our shower broke like a week ago, so we bathe in ice water. We were going to fix it today, then I got in the shower, and hot water came out. Thank you Santa! I also look forward to opening the pajamas and chocolate orange tomorrow. Talk about self-control, I know what I got, and still haven't opened it. I may buy myself some cheap speakers, too, if that's okay, because the ones I have are dying, I think. Tomorrow, we'll be calling from a member's home, the Montegro family. They are like my family here, I love them. They are getting sealed on Friday, and are super excited. Plus, they have 8 Golden Retriever puppies, so bonus there. Hopefully the connection will be great, and there will be no problems. Sneider and Sonia may be there, too, so maybe you can meet them! Sneider can say "Can I go to the bathroom please?" in English, but he's failing English, so his vocab stops there. At least you'll meet the Montegro family and Elder Sanchez for sure, which will be good. Polish up on your Spanish.

We made gingerbread cookies this morning in our chapel. They didn't turn out good, in fact, they were bad. But, hey, Merry Christmas. 

Our bishop spoke about us in Priesthood this week. It was really awesome. He is a tough, rigid guy. Really good bishop, just hardly shows emotions. He started crying and talking about how much we've done to strengthen his ward. He said that since we've been here, our converts have all been attending church, and he knows that we're doing our best work to help them. The ward has about 500 members, maybe 110 attend. All of our converts are still attending, and 2 of 5 inactive families that we work with are now attending regularly. The Lord has been really good to us in our work here. We've put in all of our best efforts, and done our best to do what the Lord wants from us here. This week, we struggled to find new people, to me, that's the hardest part of missionary work. To find the people who are prepared. Once you find them, it's usually not too tough to help them learn and progress, but it is very hard to find those people. There are so many Catholics here, and they are mean and rude. I start being really direct with them when they're rude to me, and I leave having won that fight.

The Batman diet continues to go well. 1500 push-ups a week, I'm running tons, and feeling more and more ready to fight crime. Sneider wants to be Robin, so he and I are going to sneak out one night this week and fight the ladrones here. I'm not happy with Elder Sanchez. He told me the end of Batman. Super not happy. I want someone to hit me hard on the head and give me amnesia to forget. Blah.

Talking tomorrow will be great, especially in English. I rarely get to speak English, really only when I'm on splits with a missionary that speaks English, which is not often. When we're all together as a zone, we mostly speak Spanish, becuase the Latinos think that we're saying mean things about them. I don't mind it, Spanish is great, but it's about time for some English. 

You guys should send a package/letters to Elder Sanchez. Could each of you write a letter to him. All he has is his mom and his sister, and only his sister writes him emails. (just found this out.) So send him a few little things, it would be so great for him. His mom tells people that he's here at school, she doesn't talk about him being a missionary. He's sacrificed a lot for the Church, I admire him so much. He's a great man, and has a great future in the mission.

I love the sector, but I also feel ready to go. January 27th or 28th, I think, are transfers, and my leaders tell me that I'll probably go to the coast because I am an obedient missionary. I don't mind where I go, it's getting to that point where I should be in a new place. I've contacted almost every street here, called almost everyone in the area book, I'm just running out of ideas for what we can do to find new people. But, we work our hardest every day, and we seldom come home feeling discouraged about our work. We may contact all day, but we know that we're working our hardest and doing the Lord's will. 

Little Josh, you're awesome. Congrats on your baptism, and, yes, I am having fun on my mission. Just remember, don't ever eat cow's leg, or you will be sick. Sorry I couldn't be there, but I am super proud of you.

It's about that time to sign off, but you can't complain because we get to talk tomorrow. I love you all tons and tons, and we'll talk tomorrow... I hope you all have a very Merry Christmas, and remember the real reason why we celebrate this great time of the year.

Con amor, hambre, y sueño,

Elder Thomas

Monday, December 17, 2012

Josh's title: 4 8 15 16 23 42 (from Lost)

Hey all,

This last week was really crazy for us. Monday, we went to Cotopaxi and were exhausted afterwards, then Tuesday we have to get up at 5 to go to a reunion for trainers at 8. Wednesday, we have to get up at 5 again to go to the north to do paperwork for Elder Sanchez. Thursday, normal. Friday, we didn't work, we had our Christmas Dinner with President and Sister Ghent, which was awesome. Saturday, normal. Sunday, normal.

The trainer's meeting was really great, I learned a lot of things that I need to do better as a trainer. Elder Sanchez has been doing really well, and President and the assistants are really happy with his progress, but there are always things to do better. I need to do a lot better about explaining things and demonstrating things, and not just saying the things that he needs to do better. I've been really grateful for this time I've had to train, because I feel like I've been learning a lot more than Elder Sanchez has. It's always a good thing to learn about and practice the basics, because when you can master those, then you can really get going. I have one more change here in Guamaní. Four changes here. It's been really long and really short at the same time, but I've enjoyed my time here. I know the ward really well, and know every part of the sector. It'll be hard to leave, but exciting, too. Six more weeks, then adíos Chillogallo.

I got a package from the Ebberts today, thanks so much. Everything tastes great, and is already half gone. I love those little caramel things from Trader Joe's, nailed it there. As for the letter, thank you for you love and support, and for making me super jealous with your paragraph about movies. All the movies you mentioned will be awesome. If I had to guess, I would say that Lawsen is going through a "Kirby" stage, but that's just me. Jensens, I got your letter, thanks so much. I loved how Ethan put "Noveber" for the month. Thanks for you words of encouragement and the funny quotes, Anna, and Mark, it sounds like everything is going great for you at work. Keep it up. Ethan, your air soft gun sounds awesome, and I've been eating a lot of bananas here.

The Christmas dinner was so awesome. President and Sister Ghent went all out, it was awesome. We had turkey, potatoes, vegetables, healthy things, and not rice, which is just so wonderful. I can't explain how much rice is put into me on a daily basis. No gracias. It doesn't even taste like anything, it's just bland rice with too much salt. But, no rice was found at the Christmas dinner, which quizás is the greatest gift of all. I got to see Elder Pande again, which was awesome. He's one of my favorite missionaries. He, Elder Smith, and Elder Bautista have been great leaders to me. Elder Pande is just super funny. There was a drawing for a present, and Elder Pande was telling everyone that he was going to win, and no one believed him. His name was drawn, he stood up, fist pumped, and shouted, "Yes! ¡Les dije!" very loudly, and it was really funny. We had a really fun time, and didn't get home till 11, so there was my once-a-year "late night" out. Really love it, I wish it was a lot longer to be honest. We went carolling, ate cookies, had hot chocolate, the works. 

This next weekend, Sneider's mom is getting baptized, and we're really exicted. They've made great friends in the Church, and plan on going to the temple as soon as possible to both go through for herself (Sneider baptisms), and to do the work for her husband who died 5 years ago. It's going to be really hard to leave them at the end of this transfer, but it's comforting to know that they have friends in the Church to help them out whenever they need anything. Hopefully this will be a good change for us, we're coming off of really good six weeks, and hopefully we can keep it going.

We hardly had studies this week, which kind of stunk. I had one day with full studies. It stinks when we can't have studies! This week will be better, though. I finished the four Gospels this week, and am working on the rest of the New Testament as quickly as possible, and am still going strong with the Book of Mormon. I really love my studies, but since we didn't have them this week, I can't blow your mind with scriptural aweseomeness this week. My bad.

Not much happened this week, so I don't have much more to write, sorry fans... Thanks for writing me, and thanks for all that you do for me...

Con amor,

Elder Thomas

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Sorry this is late--again! His title for this email was "Chang eats the moon and drinks the sky, and they both go with him when he dies" which is from the show Community. Enjoy!

Hey all,

Cotopaxi was really fun today, really tiring. We got up at 4 to leave, and we got back at 4. It was really fun and really cool, but we never actually got to see the peak. It was super, super cloudy, but that's okay. It was very windy and very cold, but as a true Minnesotan, I handled it fine. We had a snowball fight, which was really fun, some Elders had never touched snow before. It looks like you guys finally got snow, which is awesome. I miss having it white around Christmastime, but that's okay.

We had a pretty tough week this week, but I'm doing okay. We had some situations come up with investigators that made things really tough for us and for them. But, on Sunday, the Lord blessed us with a really great surprise. We have an investigator, Luis Morales, that really wanted to get baptized, but he works almost every day. On Sunday, at 10 a.m., he called his brother who serves in the bishopric, and asked if he could get baptized that morning and confirmed in church that same day. Our sacrament meeting starts at 12. It was super, super crazy, but at the end of the 3 hour block, he was baptized, confirmed, and had the Aaronic Priesthood. It was a really powerful testimony builder to me. We worked hard this week, and as I said, due to a few situations that probably aren't best to talk about openly with many people, we were feeling very down. But we worked really hard and we were very obedient, and the Lord blessed us for the work we put in, our faith, and our desires to really help people come unto Christ. Very cool experience for me, and great way to end the week...

Thank you so much for the package. It turns out that someone did go to the offices, and I have the packages. The surprise of a present kind of disappears when you have to declare what is in the package, but I'll pretend to be surprised when I open them on Christmas. And I knew that you would send the pretzel things, I was gonna ask for them, but I knew that they would come. They are almost gone after 4 days. They taste like Christmas. Thank you so much for the package.

My Batman-plan is coming along well. I did 1500 push ups last week, and have been sneaking out at night to fight people. Okay, so I haven't been sneaking out, but I am doing push ups like mad. I've got a good exercise and diet plan down, and I'm feeling a lot better these days, and feel like I have a lot more energy to work every day. I really miss basketball...

I was thinking a lot about inertia today when we were on Cotopaxi because I am a nerd. As I was thinking about it, I thought about the idea of spiritual inertia. For example, if we're doing good things often, like reading the scriptures and writing Elder Thomas, it's tough to stop ourselves from doing those good things. But, it we're doing bad things, like forgetting to write our brother (Madsens) often, it's also very hard to stop doing those things. Just like walking down a steep hill, it takes a lot of work to impose the force that is pulling us down. It's possible, just hard and takes a force of our own to impose the force of gravity. So we should all do our best to keep our spiritual inertia going in the right direction, and we won't have to worry about trying to oppose a strong force against us.

I love studying the Gospel, love it, love it. Every day, it's like my eyes are opened a bit wider, and I can understand what scriptures are saying so much better. Especially writing the Libro de Mormón in my own words. I really respect Nefi when he gets the instructions to build a boat. A whole boat. If the Lord asked me to do that, I'd be like, good joke, I can't do that. But the Lord says that He will show Nefi how to build it, so all he asks is where he can find the materials to make tools to build a boat. We should be more like Nefi, always willing to do what the Lord asks. We should think more along the lines of, okay, You gave me a commandment, I'll do it, just give me what I need to do it. Go Nefi.

It's about that time. I love you all tons, remeber to tell me when we're going to talk and my Skype information. I love you all tons and tons, and miss you tons, too. Dash, keep it real. Thanks for taking care of him.

Con amor,

Elder Thomas

Saturday, December 8, 2012

I'm so sorry that this is late--this week definitely got away from me. Anyways, Josh titled his email "Treat every day like Christmas." This is a quote from the movie Elf, which is an awesome movie. Enjoy!

Hey all,

The internet cafe that we're in stinks and the internet is awful, so we'll see how this goes.

For four months, I have played and lost time and time again in checkers against our ward mission leader. He is super old and I'm surprised that he's still alive. This week, finally I rose victorious. I crushed him, and he was at a loss for words. At first, I thought he was having a heart attack, but thankfully, he was just really shocked. I left feeling proud, and know that I brought honor to the Thomas family name.

Next week, we're going to Cotopaxi! We got permission today from President that we can go next week. We're gonna leave pretty early, and should get back around 2. I'm really excited, and hope to swim in lava or something really cool like that.

The baptisms went well this week, we had three, and our district had 5 total. Sneider didn't come to church, so we went to find out why and it turned out that he told his mom he's be home in an hour, and he didn't come back for 4 hours, so they missed church. His mom is really converted and knows how important it is to go to church, and she was really mad at him. She asked us to help her yell at him, so we did so lovingly and she did so not so lovingly. But I guess it's a problem with him, so we did what we could to help. Poor kid.

There are a lot of parades here, and while you may think that they rival that of the Macy's Day Parade, they don't. The instrument of choice, for obvious reasons, is the xylophone in every school band. The sound sounds like Christmas bells chiming beautifully. Wait, it sounds awful. All day long. No gracias.

This week was a little tough, because we couldn't find anyone new. It's really disheartening when we walk around all day trying to find people, and we just end up coming home really tired and with no one new. But hey, that's part of life. If we keep working, things will get better. But it is pretty tough. Plus, it's been unusually hot and sunny here, so we get really dehydrated, too. I bought a big 6 liter thing of water and drink a lot at the end of the day. I've learned to become grateful for all the really tough days we have here, because it makes the good days so much better. This is not an easy sector, and I've been here a while. I'm thinking that the Lord wants me to have a tough time here at first so that I can learn to really enjoy every good moment I'll have while on my mission. If that's the result of these tough times, then it'll definitely be worth it to keep pushing through. There is a small chance that I won't be here for Christmas, and if I'm not here for Christmas, I don't know when I'll be able to get packages or mail before Christmas because nobody went to the offices today, and next week no one will go since we'll be at Cotopaxi. So we'll see what happens, maybe no presents for Christmas. But the important thing is that we'll get to videochat, and anything else isn't nearly as important. Three week..can you believe it?

I have a really healthy breakfast now, Special K, eggs, hot chocolate or herbal tea, and sometimes oatmeal. I have 10 mangoes and bananas, got them all for 3 dollars. I broke my fast with a giant mango and Sun Chips, so good. I am all out of the Captain, hopefully more comes soon. Cheez-Its would be awesome, too. I am still doing Ab-Ripper and running, plus I'm trying to do 200 push ups a day, to become Batman. In a year and a half, I'll be totally ready.

Trevor, congrats on the calling, and Heather, maybe your calling will be to send me cookies or something like that. Nat and Alex, thanks for writing me. Oh wait, you didn't write me. Erica and Andrew, it must be so fun seeing Eliza growing up. Nikki, keep up the awesomeness, and Amber, stop talking to boys. Mom and Dad, don't get blown up in Israel, and other than that, have fun. It's going to be super, super cool, take lots of pictures and tell me all about it. I hope everyone else is doing fine, and sorry that the letter is kind of short, but I had to send pictures to the offices of the baptismal records and it took forever. I love you all, and hope that this week is more exciting and that I can write a better letter next week. I feel like this one lacks the flow I usually have, so please forgive me.

Love you all tons, and we'll talk in a week!

Con amor,

Elder Thomas

Monday, November 26, 2012

 This week's quote was "This isn't a car."--Batman

Hey all,

Faced the biggest temptation of my mission so far this week. Did Batman come out on DVD this week or something? It's been in stores here for months, but now people aren't afraid to play it in their stores, so it must be legal to have now...Long live Batman.

We had 7 people come to church this week, which is really, really awesome. The 11 year old boy and his mom came (Sneider and Sonia), he will be baptized Saturday and the mother will be baptized the 8th. We have another mom and her son, Elena and Dennis, who will be baptized this Saturday, and one more brother, Luis, who will probably be baptized this Saturday, too, if he can get off of work. We had a 21 year old come, too, his name is Adrian, and he is really black and really awesome. And we had the mom of the two girls who were baptized finally come to church, and she'll hopefully be baptized the 8th. It was a really great Sunday, and almost everyone stayed all three hours, which is also really hard. We worked really hard to get people to come to church this week, but more importantly, we prayed really hard that people would have the desires to come to church, and the Lord really helped us out. We've got some really, really great investigators, and I love being with them and learning with them. It's so awesome to have good investigators that really progress well.

The Escobar family is just the best. The father choked to death 5 years ago, and the first lesson we taught was the Plan of Salvation, and they loved it. They're progressing super well. The get all dressed up for church, and have made some really good friends. They're from the coast, and people from the coast are known to cook really well and to be really buff. Yesterday, we had dinner with them, something called encocado, delicious. It's like a chicken soup think with coconut, tough to describe, happy to eat. They're an awesome family. Plus, Sonia called me "tuco," which means muscular, and coming from someone from the coast, I was super happy. Helps me on my road to being Batman. They also gave us a reference, their neighbors, and they want to learn more from us... She really liked the picture of our family, so go Team Thomas on that end!

Ate a mango this week, UNREAL: It was so darn good. I am going to spend a lot of money on mangoes here. Dried mangoes are delicious, but ain't nothing compared to the real thing. I just can't describe the greatness. They are honestly the size of my hand, gigantic, juicy, and just perfect. One more will be eaten tonight. 

A park near our house just got some exercise equipment stuff, so we go there every other day, I run for 20 minutes and do some other stuff there, and on the off days I'm still ab ripping. I feel really good right now, exercising makes a big difference. With Elder Richimondg, we never ran, but it makes such a difference to really exercise well during the week...We went to the offices today, and for the first time every I didn't have a letter for me! But the package with the blankets was there, so thanks for that to you guys and to Sue...

Christmas is super close, which is awesome. One month, más o menos. I'm 99% sure I'll still be here for Christmas, because I'm training, and if I go, then one person from each companionship would leave, so I'll probably be here till February. When I first got here, to be honest, I wanted to leave after six weeks because it's such a hard sector. But now it feels like my home here, and it's weird to think about leaving here. It's also exciting because there is a lot more to see of Ecuador.

I'm glad to hear that you all had a great Thanksgiving... I missed being home with you guys, but not to worry, I was greeted with a delicious Thanksgiving meal. Cow stomach. Round 2. Cow stomach was leading with a score of 1-0, but Elder Thomas played his best, and now the score is cow stomach 1, body of Elder Thomas 1. In your face, stomach of cow. Never again will you destroy my bowels. Which probably means that I have some kind of parasite inside of me now that makes me immune to cow stomach, but hey, immunity is immunity, right?...

I got so prepared for the cold here with sweaters, heater, and whatnot, and now we haven't had rain for almost two weeks. It's really weird, and really not too cold here now. As soon as the rain starts again, the cold will return, but for now, it's really not that bad. The volcanoes are like Death Mountain from Zelda, with clouds always surrounding them. So Trevor and Andrew, if you have a few minutes, could you come here and kill the dragons? Much appreciated.

That's about it this week for me. Nothing too exciting happening this week, and I want time to send pictures. I think we get to see the devotional this Sunday, I hope we can. We still don't have the conference edition of the Liahona, which kind of stinks. But soon, I hope, it will come. I love you all, and will talk to you in a week.

Con amor,

Elder Thomas

Monday, November 19, 2012

Happy Thanksgiving!

Happy Thanksgiving week! Josh celebrated Thanksgiving today and got our package with stuffing and other goodies in it just in time. This email's subject title was "The best was to spread Christmas cheer is singing loud for all to hear"--Elf

Hey family and friends,

How are you all? I hope everything is going well. This week was great leading up to Sunday. We found tons of new people, especially families, and it looks like they'll progress well, but hardly anyone came to church, which is probably the most frustrating thing in the whole world. Nothing has ever bugged me more in my life than when people say that they'll come to church then don't show up. So go to church! We had two baptisms this week, and only one got confirmed because they didn't show up...This coming week we should have one more baptism, cause he, bless his heart, came to church this week. All the other people still want to be baptized, but we had to push back their dates until December. Frustrating sometimes, but oh, well, that's how it goes. Darn that agency. 

I bought four HUGE mangoes this week. The good ones are starting to come, and I'm really excited. I just need to wait a bit for them to ripen. I bought a ton of bananas, too, and am still eating Special K. I'm getting really excited for all of the good fruit that is going to be coming soon, it's gonna be great. I got the package with stuffing today (stuffing was shared and is gone), and thanks for the Sun Chips, Nutter Butters, hot chocolate, and Fiber One bars (laughed very hard when I saw those). 

I think it was Bruce R. McKonkie, or some apostle, that one time read the Book of Mormon, and wrote each verse in his own words. I was thinking about that a lot this week, and decided that I want to do that. So I'm writing the Libro de Mormón in my own words right now during personal study. It'll take a very long time, but I love it. I find myself understanding it a lot better, like why Laman and Lemuel were so whiney. They shouldn't have been so, but I understand the story a lot better now, and in there case, it would be really hard to not murmur. I really like doing it, and hope I can finish it relatively quickly. I also really like reading the New Testament. I always forget how good the Bible is. I need to use it more when I teach. I think too often missionaries think, "Book of Mormon, Book of Mormon, Book of Mormon!" And they forget that the purpose of the Bible and the Book of Mormon is to support the other, and using both will only increase their influence in the lesson. So I'm gonna do better with that.

I'm still adjusting to being a senior companion, I still forget that it's my job to lead the sector, and that I'm responsible for all the work we do or don't do. It's good, but it's weird. One thing that I've really pushed for is lessons with members present. Usually we had maybe 4 a week with Elder Richimondg, this week we had 9, which is great. If we can get each investigator a friend in the church, they're gonna want to attend. So, we're really pushing for that. Elder Sanchez is doing great, progressing well. He's still got a lot to learn, since he's only had a year in the church, but he's progressing really, really quickly. I'm excited to see him grow into a better missionary and really gain good confidence in himself. He's doing his best every day, and I can't ask for more...

We had Elder Waddell come this week, and he is awesome. He has a Spain accent, which was a little weird to hear, but he speaks really good Spanish. He talked a lot about having converts, not just baptisms. In the last 12 months, this area of South America had 36,000 baptisms, which he said was great, but sacrament meeting attendance only went up 9,000. He really emphacized (spelling?) prayer, reading the Book of Mormon, and church attendance. He said the habit of doing these three things will help anyone become a convert. He also said it's important to teach the principle of repentence really well. He said that we can have baptisms with people who haven't repented, but it's impossible to have people who truly repent not become converts. I really loved his training, and I'm really excited to work hard and to do a better job teaching our investigators.

Eliza is just too cute. Sometimes I feel sad that I'm not there when Jack and Eliza are little, but at least I can see pictures. We'll be able to video chat for Christmas, if I'm still here at least, but I think that I can find a cyber with video chat anywhere in Ecuador.  I also miss the snow, but that's okay, too. Days here in this season feel kind of like fall days in Minnesota because it's almost always cloudy. It hasn't rained much this week, which is pretty weird. But I've finally gotten used to the climate and the culture, and I'm really feeling a lot more comfortable with every aspect of the missionary life. I hardly ever feel nervous, and have quite the arsenal of scriptures up my sleeve. Plus, I've noticed that I can listen to the Spirit a lot more easily now, which is so key to everything that we do. Some of the contacts we made that turned into investigators were moments where we pass a house, and very distinctly I feel like we need to go back and knock on the door. Really cool to see that change in myself, and to see how important the Spirit is in the work.

¿Qué más? This week was pretty relaxed, today we had Thanksgiving which is really fun. I wish I had more to write this week, but it was one of those weeks where the week was great, and it kind of crashed into so-so week. This week will be better. I love that quote from Sam from Lord of the Rings. I read it pretty much every day, cause it's pretty much the best quote ever. It's so true what he says, the best stories are the ones where for most of the time, it seems that nothing will go right, but eventually it does, and then it ends awesome. The more I think about it, yeah it stinks to be in a tough sector, but that makes the successes we have so much better. I'd much rather have a tough time that ends with something awesome than to have an easy path my whole mission and never face any trials. No hero is awesome because everything went right for him, he's awesome because he had to fight for everything to go right. Quote that, Elder Thomas, 2012. One of my dreams is to have myself be quoted in some book one day, so there's trial numero uno. But it's true! So when you guys pray for me, don't pray for things to be easy for me, pray for me to have the strenth I need to keep going when everything seems to be going wrong.

It's about that time, thanks for everything you all do for me. Keep praying, keeping being awesome. Oh! And my placas came today, so I have more than one now! I love you all, and think of you often when times seem tough. It's great to know that I have so many people cheering for me back home...Thanks so much for everything.

Con amor,

Elder Thomas

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

So so sorry that this is posted late..Josh is safe and sound, so no worries! He actually had a great week--Enjoy!

Hey all,
This week has been a little nuts. I didn't really work until Thursday in our sector because I had to wait to pick up my companion on Wednesday, and we didn't get back till like 5. My companion is Elder Sanchez, from Colombia, and he knows Elder Richimondg really well. They worked together in Guayaquil for a year or so before the mission. He's been a member for one year, and is really excited to work. He needs to learn a lot, but with his excitement I'm not worried about his progress, with time and practice he'll get there. It's really weird to be the boss, but I'm adjusting to it slowly. I still feel like I have no idea what we should do, but that helps us depend on the Lord more. I hope that with the help of the Lord, I can do a good job of training this new missionary and starting his mission off in a really good, positive way.
I was really worried when he came because I knew he would come so excited, like I did, and after my first 12 weeks I wasn't nearly as excited as I was when we arrived because we had a tough couple of months with tough results of our work. But, I prayed really hard up until Wednesday that the investigators we found will progress with us, and that we can continue to find good new investigators. I really didn't want him to come excited and in two weeks be sad again. We are now looking at 10 people being baptized by the end of the month, realistically 8ish, but that is super good not only for our sector, but for our zone in general. We have a tough zone to work in, but we have happy missionaries in the zone. I really put all my faith in the Lord with this new transfer, and knew that nothing I did would amount to much without faith and the Lord's help, and now we've found some awesome people who have real desires to follow Christ's example. I am so happy that I can be an instrument in the Lord's hands and help Him out working with His childen here in Ecuador. The more I work, the more I realize how small my part is in helping people arrive at their baptism. It all depends on their desires and efforts, and the faith that they put in the Lord. I just teach a little and answer any questions that they have. And when they arrive at a baptism, it's just such a happy thing to see.
We've been working with a family of 10 from Otovalo, they're inactives and awesome. We have an appointment with them tonight. I want to be their friends. They're pretty much Lamanites. They're going to help me learn Quichua (no idea how to spell it), too, and we're gonna help them get to the temple. They have great desires, but the parents basically aren't home from June to December, so they kids never go. They came this Sunday, which was awesome. We worked really hard Thursday to Sunday, and 19 people came to church that normally wouldn't come. When you work hard and with faith, great things happen. We had 5 investigators attend church, and 14 inactives attend. There are 500ish members, about 130 come every Sunday, so we still have a lot to work on. I play piano every now and again. The congregation knows about 13 songs, and a lot of them are too hard for me to play without practicing, especially not on a real piano. I play when I can. I was so so so happy to have people come to church. That is the hardest thing for us, so we focused on that during the week, and look what happens. While I have a ton to learn still, I feel like I'm getting the whole missionary thing down. I know how to teach so people understand, and how to help them understand the importance of action in the Gospel. Much to learn, but I finally feel like I'm getting there.
You know in all the chick flicks, when there's a popular girl that gets with a nerd, or some nicey-nice girl that gets with a punk? I had an experience like that this week with cereal. I was at a store, and I needed food. I was going for my Trix, when something caught my eye. Special K. Why did it catch my eye? Free granola bar with purchase. Thinking only of the granola bar, I bought the cereal. I ate the granola bar upon entry to the house, then figured I'd try out the cereal. You may be thinking, "Elder Thomas, what would a man like you be doing with a dork like Special K, especially a box that is clearly tailored for women who want to lose weight?" Love is love, people, you can't separate us. Trix has lost its savour, for now. It's all about the Special K, and  I can't deny the love between us, although we come from very different worlds.
The mall has Christmas stuff up, I love this time of year. We don't have Christmas stuff in the house, I may buy some. We have transfers a week before Christmas, so I may be in a new place before then, we'll see. I just love this time of year.
We have a little investigator, Sneider, 11, who came to Church with us this Sunday, and he is super awesome. He came in a suit, followed us around, and did everything we did, handshakes, etc. He is awesome, and super excited to be baptized. We have some great investigatos...
 We went to an Otovalean market close to the offices and I got some really cool handmade stuff, like a cool bag and a hand made sweaterish thing. I hope I serve in Otovalo one day, the things they make are pretty, there are tons of members, they're Lamanites, I can learn Quichua, and I hear it's really pretty there.
Not too much happened this week since it was a fairly short week, so that's about all for now, I think. Everyone looks great, and it sounds like everyone is doing great in the things that they do in life. Keep it up, team. Love you all!
Con amor,
Elder Thomas

Monday, November 5, 2012

Colada Morada

Happy Monday! I still can't get the pictures to upload--something about the formatting--I'm trying to figure it out still! Enjoy!

Hey all,

I am still in Guamaní, probably for three more months. Turns out that I'll be training a brand new missionary, which is kind of intimidating to think about, but I`m also excited to work with a brand new missionary. I won't have a companion until Wednesday, so I'm living with the zone leaders for the next couple of days. I'm honestly kind of scared, because I'm totally in charge of the sector now, and I'm not sure if I'll be able to train well, but I'll do my best. I hope my companion's name is Elder Wayne and he's a billionaire vigilante.

Our rabbits had babies this week! At least five, maybe more.

Jake, awesome job being in the Friend! You rock buddy! Keep up the good work, keep helping out old ladies, and you'll be even more awesome than you are now.

This drink, colada morada, is literally the best drink that I have ever had, without any doubt. It is basically every good fruit there is boiled into one drink. It's almost pure fruit, so it's really good for you. They only have it here the first weekend in November, so I had 12 glasses of it before I started fasting. They also make babies of bread with jelly in it, which is really good too. Steve, I don't know if you've had colada morada before depending on the times you've been here, but you have got to try it, it is so so so so so so so good. My favorite drink ever, and now I have to wait a year to drink it again.

Elections must be nuts right now. I kind of miss being there to see it all. As a representative of the Church, I probably shouldn't talk about politics. (Go Mitt!) So we'll leave it at that (Go Mitt!).

We had an awful storm the other day, Tuesday I think, and I was completely soaked. It was miserable. I have never been so wet and so cold. At night, we sat around the califactor and our clothes steamed dry for like a half hour. Elder Richimondg assured me that worse storms are yet to come, so I'll have to learn how to properly bundle to stay dry and warm.

I bought a mango this week, and it's a bit early for the good ones, but this mango was still really great. I went mega mango and had dried mango with fresh mango, and mi cuerpo was happy. The peanut butter you sent with cranberries is really good too, and thanks for the hot chocolate. Spot it is a big hit, I opened it in the office and we played with the people there for like a half an hour. We didn't go to the offices today, I'll be up there Wednesday to get my companion and maybe Monday we'll go too.

Dad, I got a letter from you with the talk from John Groberg about honoring the Priesthood, and that was awesome, I've read it several times. I think too often we forget what the Priesthood really is and what we can and should do as holders of that Priesthood. I need to do a better job of remembering that, and I've been putting more emphasis on the Priesthood whenever we teach about it. It really is the power of God, and can only be found in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. That knowledge, coupled with reading the Book of Mormon, will help any person understand that Christ's true church is on the earth again.

I've been reading the New Testament in Spanish, and I love it. The scriptures are awesome in Spanish. Like the Book of Mormon, when I read in Spanish, it feels like I'm reading the scriptures for the first time, and I learn tons of new stuff in the chapters that I read. Did you know in Matthew 20 (I think), Jesus says that we need to recieve a baptism just like He recieve, and in Matt 3 we learn that that is by someone holding the Priesthood, by immersion, and when we're old enough to know what we're doing. I read that and was like, "Boom! Prepared to respond to infant baptism (coupled with the Book of Mormon, obviously)!" I always forget how good the Bible is. People should read the scriptures more, they'll be happier.

The Avengers was on in the store today, I was tempted to watch, but I pretty much have it memorized in my brain, so I'm doing great.

One of our new Zone Leaders, Elder Peterson, is great. My first night in Ecuador, I worked with him, and thought "He's awesome!" and now he's my Zone Leader, so I'm pretty excited. Elder Smith, my other Zone Leader, is on his last six weeks, he sees the Christmas stuff and gets pretty trunky. Elder Richimondg is about two hours north from here, and he's finishing up the training of another missionary...

The letters that I get are great, and really help me to go into the week to work harder and happier, so thank you all for sending me your awesome letters, keep it up because it means a lot to me...

Matt Denkers, you report to the MTC this week. If you read this, good luck buddy. I'll be praying for you and can't wait to see you in two. Send my parents your contact stuff and I'll write you. Love you buddy!

Another tough week for us, no one at church, no one progressing. Pray for our sector and ask Heavenly Father to help us find some good people who really need the Gospel.

Time to wrap up! Love you all, ask me questions and I'll try and respond. Daylight Savings does not exist here. Colada Morada is great. I love you tons, and will talk to you in a week when I have my son by my side.

Con amor,

Elder Thomas

Monday, October 29, 2012

Hola! For anyone interested, Josh's email this week was titled with a quote from The's from Dwight, of course: " My father's name was Dwight Schrute. His father's name was Dwight Schrute. His father's name? Dwide Schrude. Amish." There are some pictures again, and I'll try my best to get them on here, but I make no guarantees! Enjoy!

Hey all,

Not a lot of time to write today because we have stuff to do still, so here I go...

I have a list of things to write, and I'm gonna try to do it in 10 mintues.

Dad, wasn't it cool that you're uncle had an article in the Liahona? Very good article, I enjoyed it.

People came to church! We had six investigators come this week!

I finished Captain Crunch this morning, went to the offices, package waiting for me. The one with the Plan of Salvation thing. Very awesome, muchas gracias...

Changes next week, I'll probably stay here and Elder Richimondg will most likely leave. He has six months here, and I only have three, so it's most likely that he'll be leaving and not me, but we'll see. Next monday I'll know who my new companion is!

I had like 8 Batman dreams this week.

I finished the Book of Mormon in Spanish this week. That was a really cool experience for me and I learned a lot, plus with all my markings now I feel well armed with scriptures. I'm trying to finish the New Testament in Spanish antes de Christmas.

I've been 20 for a month! Veteran...

Steve-o, got you're letter about your last three weeks. Awesome, much needed advice, and a very good example of working boldly. I think about your letter every time I do a contact now. Crepes and Waffles is close to the mission office, but today I don't think we'll have time to go. One day, I will have crepes, and I will have waffles, and they will be eaten under one roof.

I had a cool experience this week. There was this really nice guard who worked at a pharmacy right by our house. He always smiled and waved at him, and one day we wanted to go talk to him and get to know him, but he was nowhere to be found. He changed jobs, it turns out. Anyways, we saw him walking around near our house one day, and figured he must live nearby. I've prayed for two weeks to find him, and this week it happened. He is really excited to learn from us, and we have a cita with him this Wednesday, we hope. I'll keep you posted. His name is Cristobal, which is awesome.

I can't wait for Christmas, the stores have stuff in them now for Christmas...

While my Spanish is nowhere near perfect, I feel pretty comfortable talking with anyone now. I need to work on opening my mouth more. In English, we don't really need to, in Spanish, we do. So that's what I'm working on mejoraring right now with Spanish...

Steve-o, any news on your trip to Quito yet?...Thanks to everyone who has sent me letters. Someone else from our zone got to the offices before us, so I don't have letters today, I'll get them Thursday, but I do have the package. Captain Crunch was with me way up high in the Basillica.

I was told I'd have 30 minutes to write, and right now I'm at 30, but no one is stopping me, so I'll keep going.

People who are married, be really good and really faithful to your wife/husband, and don't do dumb things. I've seen a lot of couple recently going through really tough times. One family wasn't married, the Dad said he wanted to, then ran away the next day and left his family. Just crushed the family, they're still really sad, but they came to church Sunday and that helped them a lot. Another husband was inactive for awhile, and it sounds like he was very unfaithful to his wife and broke about every commandment you can. He said he wanted to change time and time again, and now his desires to change are sincere, but the wife just can't believe him anymore. He is doing all the right things to get back on the path, and it's so sad to see his wife not believing in him. So be good to your spouse, and never get drunk. Dads here get drunk, beat their kids or wife, and it causes so many troubles. If you've found someone you love, love them! It's that simple, and with my years of marriage experience, you all should listen to me. Mom and Dad, you're great examples of really loving your spouse... So love your spouse, do something every day to make sure they know you love them, and that you'll never do anything to hurt them. That would solve so many problems here...

What I've found out here is that there are three things that can always brighten your spirits: music, scriptures, and general conference talks. I try to do/read/listen to these things every day, and it makes such a difference. If I can start the day with really peaceful, spiritual experience, I find myself smiling more, being happier as I walk and talk. If you could listen to one song, read one scripture, and read one general conference talk every day, and then think about it thorughout the day, everyone in the whole world would be happier, without any day. Another good thing is to just go out and serve. Help an old woman carry a sack of weird corn, walk a drunk man home as he's vomiting. Smile at an old man when you have no idea what he's saying. Eat food when there is literally no space for it. Things like that make all the difference. It's so true that little things can make a big difference. Also, if you watch Batman daily, that probably wouldn't hurt.

People have started feeding us more now that it's cold outside, so I'm doing harder exercises in the morning to counteract their attacks. Fruit is getting really good. I bought 55 mandarinas and 25 oranges for $2.50, and in a month, vienen los mangos. Boo-yah! There are two drinks here I really like, colada morada, and máchica, and I really want to drink it every day.

Time to go, love you all tons! Write to me and pray for me! Thanks for all you do, and always be willing to help the missionaries.

Con amor,

Elder Thomas

Monday, October 22, 2012

Another email from the J-man! Unfortunately, there was not a witty email title this week, but never fear, because Josh happened to insert a part of Mariah Carey's "All I Want For Christmas Is You" in his email..I think that makes up for it :) Also, I still can't get the picture files to copy over..I'll keep working on it..Enjoy!

Hey all,
We went to Old Quito today, and did a tour of one church, San Francisco. 800 years old, really cool. Could only take pictures in the courtyard, but that's okay. Really cool. I have a few more pictures but the internet is slow where we are (in nice Quito right now)...

First off, some things that I haven't remembered to write for a couple of weeks. Writing a week's worth of stuff in an hour is hard. The birthday card I got with the Avengers is easily the coolest thing I've ever seen... Excellent, now to the week...

I had splits with Elder Pande this week, and we created a mega cereal. I still have (had, well still have some) a box of Captain Crunch, and he found a chocolate cereal with strawberry something in the middle. We mixed the two, and magic happened. This chocolate, peanut butter, strawberry goodness, couple with hot apple cider, for the perfect cereal based breakfast I have had in Ecuador so far. Of the food from the first three packages, I have some apple cider, hot chocolate, and a bit of the Captian left. Someone went to the offices today with money, so if there is a package I'll have it Thursday.

I got letters this week from home, including a from the Cheneys, Fillmores, and Bawdens. Cheneys, thanks so much for the music, this next p-day an Elder is bringing his electric piano and we're going to try them out. Really awesome, and I promise that I write in my journal every day. Brother Fillmore, you're awesome, and I really loved that quote by C.S. Lewis, although I think that it was really a quote from you and you just didn't want to bring fame to your name, understandable. Bawdens, you guys look great with cousin Paul, I hope you enjoyed the open house, and thanks so much for the pictures...

  I couldn't stand the cold in the house at night and in the morning, so I bought an electric heater for like 20 bucks. Worth it, and now at night I sit in front of it when I write in my journal and study, it's like a little campfire. So thanks for unintentionally giving me the money to buy me the heater, I really appreciated the charity...

Dad, I got a letter this week with Spanish sayings from you, and the Latinos loved reading them and teaching them to me, I'm trying to use more whenever I can.

Christmas stuff, Mom, you asked what I want in a letter you sent. I don't want a lot for Christmas. There is just one thing I need. I don't care about the presents underneath the Christmas tree. I just want you for my own, more than you could ever know. Make my wish come all I want for Christmas is you. Also, some warm flannel pajamas, food, a nice new journal (mine is running out, should last till Christmas), those circle pretzel chocolate things, whatever else you guys think may be helpful... Whatever you send, I'll be happy with. The best gift will be that we get to skype.

Eliza and Jack are so big and so cute, I can't wait to play with them. Time is running short, so I better start finishing up. We had a baptism this week, and she's so excited to be a part of the church, it's great to see her conversion. I had an interview with President Ghent this week, which was really great. He's an awesome guy... I love you all tons. Also, primary program was yesterday, classic, even better in Spanish, especially the random note singing for each song. Universally classic. Love you tons!

Con amor y hambre,

Elder Thomas

Monday, October 15, 2012

Josh, the Mountaineer

Happy Monday! So Josh climbed a awesome is that?! He sent some pictures too, but I for some reason I can't get them to load right now--I'll try again later. If you're curious, Josh titled this email : "'If we don't live together, we're gonna die alone.' My journey as represented by LOST. By Elder Thomas. With Dwight Schrute.' That is a combination of stuff from the show Lost and The Office, and he continues with a little something from The Office in his first paragraph, so if you have no idea what he's talking about there, that's why. Enjoy!

Mis queridos hermanos,

Do I seem to write with the intelligence of someone who recently climbed a mountain? If so, it would be because I did. My name is Elder Thomas, and for the next 40 minutes I'll be guiding you through the lives of Bob and Phyllis Vance. In Webster's dictionary, wedding is described as the fusing of two metals with a hot torch. We have two metals here, gold medals. Clap, clap, clap.

I hope all is well this week. This week has been very tough, but I am really happy today. I finally got to do something fun that we've wanted to do since my first week here, and I have time to write you guys. I printed off you letters this morning and read some of them about three feet from the sun. It took us 3 hours to climb and come back. Really cool. When we got up top, the clouds of the day were just moving in, and we were literally standing in clouds. Sad to say, it's not like in Peter Pan. They are not trampolines, but cold and wet. It felt so cool to be so high and see everything. Quito is so sprawled out, it's cool to see. They hike up was just like an episode of LOST. I felt so cool. It was like a jungle hike up, pretty tough. Then we got up high and saw that there was a very easy path we could have follow, but where is the fun in that? Call me Doctor Shephard yo.

One thing I've forgotten to write for a few weeks is thank you for taking care of Dash. I really appreciate it, and he does too. I miss the little buggers. Here all the dogs are either dead, sick, dying, smelly, deformed, stinky, or just plain mean. One day here, and you'll think Dash's barking is nothing. I hope he's doing well as it's getting colder.

Also I think my cholesterol is dangerous high. You wouldn't believe how salty the food is here. Dear me. Some of the rice I eat is more salt than rice, and my heart groans. I usually start eating very quickly because if the host eats before me, they'll say, "Oh, it needs more salt!" and it's just game over. If I eat first, they lose all power. Muahaha. Sorry, Dad, if your son comes home with heart problems, or if he just calcifies and never comes home. Also, I faced a new challenge this week: eating with a PLASTIC spoon. Eating chicken with a spoon was hard, put in the plastic factor, and you've got yourself a half hour fight with chicken. I definitely have leveled up in spoon eatery.

No baptisms this week. We've been having lots of troubles getting people to show up to church. It kills me when they don't show up, just kills me. But we're working hard and doing what we can to make everyone feel invited and welcome in the church. Another big problem is marriage. Lots of people aren't married, and a big reason is because they have kids from other partners, and this makes the papers really hard to fill out. We're doing what we can to help our families in this situation. Elder Richimondg is a big help because he's from Ecuador and knows the laws pretty well. When he leaves, I'm not sure what I'll be able to do. One thing you guys should do is offer to teach an investigator with the missionaries, and offer to pick them up for church. If members here did that, I would be in heaven. 

I had a list of things to write, but we came here right from the mountain, so I can't remember everything. I was reading in Joshua this week. He's awesome, probably why he's named after me. After they took down Jericho like none other, they went on to take Ai (I think that's the name.). When they went, they got scared and ran away from the fight, and the whole land made fun of Israel and no longer thought them to be a threat. Joshua prayed to the Lord, and straight up complained. He said, más o menos, " We're supposed to be awesome and we're not. What's the deal, God?" and I love the Lord's response. He basically says, "Why on earth are you on the ground complaining?! Get up! You've got a bunch of sinners among you. How can I help you if you're sinning. Get up, get working, and stop your whining!" I thought a lot about this, because that's how I feel a little bit. I'm thinking, "I'm working so hard and should have success, why am I not succeeding?" and I think God's response works here for me. "Stop whining Elder Thomas, help people repent of their sins and mistakes, and then I can come in and do the rest. Get up, get working!" I'm gonna try to remember this as I work throughout the week.

How are the babies doing? Calculus yet? Hopefully soon, if not now. Erica, I think you asked me about plants here, and yes, they are different. I would give the scientific name of each one, but I think there are maybe 4 people in the world who can do that, and I doubt any of them have social lives. They're pretty though, and there are a ton of new, really tasty fruits here.

Winnie the Pooh is pretty cool. There are a lot of Winnie the Pooh things here, and it's made me remember how cool Winnie the Pooh is.

The rain is getting rainer. Right now it's raining hard. I love it, but when we have to walk in the rain for awhile it kind of stinks. Usually in the mornings hace sol, and by 3ish in the afternoon it's raining. Last week we didn't have much. Elder Richimondg says that the rain we have now is nothing and that it'll get harder and colder in the next month or so, right when he'll be leaving. December=mangoes, and I can't wait for that. I wish I could see the seasons changing in the states, here everything is getting greener right now, which is still really pretty, but I miss seeing the leaves change. The mountains are getting greener every day, which is cool to see. It smells bad here, there is a lot of poo in the streets, especially of the good old cow. People just walk their cows around until they can find grass. Our hike today was saturated with it, not good smelling for the nose.

I should probably start wrapping it up, or rapping it up, whichever you prefer. One thing that's been weird with Spanish/English is that I'm at the point where my brain automatically uses some Spanish words instead of the English word, especially with Gospel stuff. I cannot pray in English, I straight up cannot anymore, not in my head, not out loud. When I try to, I stumble and forget words. It's really cool and really weird at the same time. I love seeing my progress through things like that.

Con amor,

Elder Thomas

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

It's winter time in Ecuador!

Sorry that this is a little late! It is officially winter in Ecuador now, and Josh talks about it a little in his latest letter. He's been sending a couple of voice recordings to us, and I'm going to try and load them soon. Also, just in case you're interested, Josh titled this email "I killed a werewolf once, but by the time I got back to it, it had turned back into my neighbor's dog." That quote is from The Office, from Dwight, who is pretty quirky. Anyways, enjoy!

Hey all,

First off, today I got letters from a bunch of friends, including Karl and Matt. That was an awesome surprise! It was so good to hear from you guys! Karl and Matt, congrats on your mission calls. You guys are going to be awesome, awesome missionaries. Be sure to give me or my family your mailing stuff so that we can keep in touch. I love you guys, and was so, so, so happy to hear from you. Karl, you made my week when you told me you're still using my family's Hulu Plus account, classic Karl. And the Ukraine? Awesome. Matt, I'm sorry you're so bored at home, but you'll be super super busy in like a month, so no worries. Have fun in New Zealand, and hunt some Orc for me. You two better write me a few more times before you report.

Christmas things are everywhere here. I think all the extra stuff that doesn't get sold at Christmastime comes here, and everyone buys it not knowing what it is. It's really funny, almost everyone uses at least one Christmas dish during meals with Santa and everything, and I'm 90% sure they have no idea who he is. I'm really excited for Christmas, it feels like it's like two weeks away instead of two months. Whatever you're doing for music, be sure to pump it up with Christmastime fun. It's gonna be weird not being at home with you guys, not watching Elf or the Grinch, but it'll still be awesome.

General Conference was indeed awesome. I can't believe about the new ages for missionaries. Immediately after the announcement, Elder Pande drew up a diagram of potential wifes when we get back since a lot more will probably serve missions now. He decided that we'll need to start attending high school proms to find our wifes before they leave on missions. It was really funny, and I think every missionary is thinking in the same way. Saturday we could only listen in Spanish, but Sunday we had it in English. I understood it all fine, but hearing the talks in English was a lot more meaningful for me. All the talks were awesome. I'd talk about my favorites, but it would take forever to write about them. I just loved them all, and it got me really excited to get working again.
Breakfast is good, I have a champion's breaksfast most days now. Cereal, oatmeal with yogurt, granola, and dried fruit, Peanut Butter and Jelly sandwhich, hot chocolate. Boom baby. I never really was a huge breakfast person, but now that I do exercise in the morning, I get hungry earlier. It's wonderful. I can't wait to come home to an American breakfast. Pancakes, sausage that won't kill me, eggs, hashbrowns, oooooh man. The food you sent is holding strong, I'm being so good with it. I haven't even opened up the box of Captain Crunch, the big one. The little one is gone, as are a lot of other things. Sun Chips, once opened lasted two days. Captain Crunch, once opened lasted 5 bowls. I have self control until the food is acutally opened, then it's game over. I also really like popcorn. I bought oil and kernels, and just pop some whenever I want a snack on the stove since we don't have a microwave.

I'm working a lot on improving my lessons and how I teach them. To me, I feel like no investigator is going to learn without something to look at while we teach to help explain things, especially the Plan of Salvation, so I'm making really bad drawings to try to help people have a visual while we teach. I think they don't look too bad, but compared to my artistic family and friends, they look like a 3 year old drew them. But if they help, they're worth it.

One thing I want to bring up is something President Eyring said. He said one of the things that happened to his son on his mission was that he learned to teach like a lion--boldly and fearlessly preaching and teaching the things that he knew to be true. I want to do better with that. We have a lot of investigators that could and should get baptized, but they are scared to or have artificial doubts about their baptism. I think that if I can be more bold, I can help them take the final step. I need to do better, I really feel super inadequate out here. I'm doing all that I can to improve and be better.

I love you all so much and am always so grateful for your love, support, and prayers. I need them every day, and without them this work wouldn't progress. Remember to always look for opportunities to help others out, service can lead to changed lives. Love everyone, serve everyone. And like Elder Russell said, if you need help with anything, ask the missionaries.

It's officially winter with rain every day. It's cold cold cold. Especially at night. Whenever there isn't sun, it is pretty cold. At night, I suit up with pajama pants, sweatpants, thermal thing you sent, green long sleeve thing, sweatshirt, wool socks. The cold is like Gotham City, and I suit up to fight it like Batman. Bring it yo, I'll beat your face in Mr. Cold. Time to go now, thanks for your love otra vez. Pray for me, send me things, and look for opportunities to serve. Sorry I couldn't write much today, but time flies by when I need to write. Love, love, love you guys.

Con amor,

Elder Thomas

Here's a picture of some of Josh's prized possessions ;)