Saturday, July 28, 2012

Josh in Peru MTC

Sorry that I posted later than usual--I was at camp--anyways, I hope you enjoy Josh's letter and pictures. I know I do!

Hey all,
I´m glad to hear everything is well! Our teachers told us about the Batman shooting in Colorado, so so sad. They said it was all over the news here too. So tragic, so sad. I hope that people are recooperating from it okay. I´ve heard it´s super good, and can´t wait to hear your report/ see it. Keep a list of all the movies I miss so we can have a good marathon when I´m home.
Today we went on the tour of Lima. It was so fun and super pretty. I´ll download what pictures I can today with the time I have. We got churros off the street which were delicious here, and went to Pizza Hut for lunch at the end, which is like a fancy restaurant here. Holy cow. That was the best thing that has happened to me in the MTC. That pizza was like heaven, I miss pizza so much. It made me crave pizza at Dan´s house. I´m acutally not doing too too bad missing food from back home, a few things I miss, but the food here is great. What´s killing me is not being able to really play basketball. They have outdoor courts, but they´re old and not very good. I really miss just going down to the church even and shooting around for a bit. It´s actually made me pretty sad. I still run a ton around the campus and do AB Ripper, plus I´ve gotten a lot better at soccer. We got soccer jerseys today, authentic ones, and they´re super cool. I got a Peru one and a Holland one (it´s orange and has a lion on it, why not?) and I´ll get another one for Ecuador when I get to the country. Super fun day, best day yet. We saw the equivalent of the White House here, plus several cathedrals and old buildings. I wanted to get a bunch of stuff, but my teacher who served in Ecuador said we can get the same stuff for less, so I´ll wait to get a lot of what I consider South American stuff.
Nick got here last night! In fact, he is sitting right next to me. It´s fun to have him here, and we´ll have a fun three weeks together. The district is doing a lot better,and we´re having a lot of fun together. I´m moving to a Latino district tomorrow though. They treat me just like I´m a Latino and don´t slow down for me, and we don´t go over grammar in class anymore. Elder Stanley is moving up with me, and we´re companions together in that class, which means on Saturdays when we go proselyting, it´ll be him and me together. Yikes. It´ll be a really fun experience. This last Saturday was great again, I placed my first Book of Mormon as a missionary, and we got several inactive members to come to church on Sunday. We don´t go this Saturday, but the following two we´ll be proselyting again. It´s so fun to go out and do it. We speak with the poorest of poor, and they are just so happy and humble. It´s just such a great experience, I love seeing how people in such humble circumstances seem to be happier than many people with tons of money in the US. Such a cool thing to experience.
Our Latinos left this week, and Tuesday is was just 20 North Americans with the CCM to themselves. It was fun, we basically just played soccer all day. I don´t love soccer, but I´m not too bad at it. I usually run around the field for 25ish minutes then play soccer for the rest. The Latinos are obsessed with it. Our new Latinos always ask us about soccer right away, it´s insane. There was a big riot a week or two ago after a local soccer game and there were gunshots and crazy stuff going on. This weekend is a national holiday in Peru, so that´s probably another good reason why we aren´t going proselyting this Saturday. It will certainly not be safe. I feel like my flow isn´t good in this letter--my bad. I´m super tired. All the new people got in in the middle of the night, plus we had to get up early to go to the temple before we started the tour. Sorry if this is super jumbled.
Also, I forgot I had that voice recorder thing. Next week I´ll record some stuff and send the files so that I can tell you more than I could write with 30 minutes. I always have a ton I want to tell you about, but I get maybe a third of it in the letter. Our new roommates are from Chile and Ecuador. Chileans talk so fast, it´s nuts. It´ll be good practice to talk with him though--I feel like if I can understand him, I can understand anyone. Also, more teachers in the CCM should talk like really old Latino women. Honestly, for the life of me, I cannot understand them when we´re tracting. We´ll knock on a door and there´ll be music playing loudly, and they whisper. Come on, throw me a bone. Do I not look white enough? Clearly you need to speak up. I´ll keep getting better, though. These next three weeks will be kind of a review for me since we´ll cover in three weeks what we were suppposed to do in 9, so I´m gonna really push myself with learning vocabulary these next few weeks. I want Spanish to start seeming easier than English by the time I leave. Sometimes I do find that it´s easier to say some things in Spanish, which is great for me.

Elder Thomas

Picture Time

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Another letter from Elder Thomas today! And even more pictures--score!

Hola familia,
I hope you are all doing well and surviving the heat back home. It´s always cool here, siempre, and never rains. It´s still weird for it to be as cloudy as it is and to never have it rain, but the climate is really nice. I´m gonna start off talking about going tracting on Saturday, because that was totally awesome.

We left here around 2 and went to the poorest part of Lima, the Rimac ward. They said that everyone there was super poor, but I didn´t even come close to imagining how poor they actually were. We couldn´t wear watches, rings, or bring anything besides our scriptures and our nametag, because if people saw something nice, they would try to steal it most likely. I went with my native companion for this, and was able to talk plenty with him...he didn´t take more time when we taught, it was actually pretty even. We were supposed to find inactive people from a list we were given and try to get them to come to church on Sunday, but none of the members on our list were home, so we went tracting for a couple hours. We made 19 contacts, and one man, Miguel, let us into his house and we taught him about the Restoration. It was really cool, and I felt the Spirit so strongly during that lesson. We got to know him and teach him, and he prayed with us at the end. The missionaries are going to go back and visit him, as well as the other people we talked to. The kids are adorable here, and they get a kick out of talking to me I think. I felt so tall walking around, no one around me was even close to my height, and I think my hair was like a beacon to everyone, inviting them to stare at me...También, there were dogs EVERYWHERE. Holy cow, I can´t even begin to describe how many dogs there were. Half of them looked like they were dead, but I was told they just lay around and sleep all day. It was so fun, and so humbling to see the circumstances these people live in. They guilt homes all up the side of the mountain, out of very simple materials. Most homes were lucky to have a couch in them. It was so cool though, because as poor as they were, they were all happy, and so inviting. We´d ask if we could talk for a bit, they´d say they were busy, and then they´d invite us back in a day or two when it was possible. It was so great, and I can´t wait to go again Saturday (same place). It got me really excited to go out into the field.
I´m district leader by the way, I don´t think I mentioned that last week.
So, Batman comes out Friday. I´m doing a lot better than I thought I would. Everyone here is talking about it, everyone. All the teachers are going to see it at midnight together, and we told them if they tell us anything about it, we´ll murder them. They said the new Spiderman was good too. Be sure to keep track of movies and shows for me, so we can have a marathon when I get back. You all better go see it this weekend, or you´ll make me sad. It´s going to be so good, I know it. You´ll love it. And remember, all I want to know is how much it makes opening weekend, rotten tomato score, and what you thought about it awesome-wise...

Spanish is coming along great, my teachers are all calling me the Latino and they have me translate back and forth for the class. When the new group of Latinos come next weeek, I´m moving to a class with them and it´ll be Spanish all day, every day for the last three weeks... I´m with my district companion all day, and only a few hours with my Latino companion a week. Next Wednesday, we go on a tour of Lima with the MTC President, and when we get back there are new people, and we get a new Latino companion.

The food is still great, and I´m doing really well with Gospel study, as well. I´ve worked really hard to memorize a ton of scriptures and scripture references, and have grown so much in my Gospel knowledge. I love my study time, it never seems to be long enough though. There is just so much to learn, I´ll never run out. I love it, and love the presence of the Spirit that is so apparant when I´m studying hard to learn things for the investigators I will soon teach.
 Steve, thanks for your note, you´re awesome. I go to the temple Wednesday mornings, and I´ll find out more about the rules we´re supposed to follow regarding visitors, but if you´re here, I´d love to see you. We can go eat a churro together or something. Thanks for all your letters, and keep them coming. I´ll write you guys as soon as stamps come...
Yours always,
Elder Thomas

~Picture Time~

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

 We got another email from Elder Thomas today! He even sent pictures--hooray!!

Lima, Peru MTC (July 11)
"Peru is AWESOME. They have their own private chef here, and the meals are all (for the most part) absolutely delicious. Lots of rice and beef, and on the fourth they even made us giant cheeseburgers to celebrate... It is still definitely a new culture, but I´m slowly getting introduced to it. I´ve been speaking tons of Spanish and am progressing well. My native companion is great, as is my district companion. I´m going to be in a class with all Latinos for the last three weeks here (most likely) because all the teachers are super impressed with my Spanish. I´ve been working hard." 

"There are three water temperatures in the shower. Morder, the Misty Mountains, and the Shire. In an average 7 minute shower, about 5 are spent in Morder, a minute and a half in the Misty Mountains, and a glorious 30 seconds in the Shire. With time, I hope I can figure out how to spend more time there, because I´ve almost melted my skin off many times. The food, as I said, is great. We have to eat everything we take, or else the Latinos may get offended. Some of these people have never seen this much food on their plate before, and throwing it away would be a huge offense. Most of the time, I´m totally fine stuffing myself, but occasionally there will be something I eat and I´ll think, "Dear me, what have I done?" But I push through and make it out okay." 

"I´ve adjusted well to the heavy fruit, vegetable, rice, beans, and meat diet. It´s really great though, some of the food is better than anything I´ve ever had at any restaurant. They have cereal here, I usually eat the Frosted Flakes, but here most people don´t have cereal with milk, they put it in yogurt. It´s actually pretty good. Lunch is usually the biggest meal, and at 8:45 every night we have fruit time, and just hang out an eat fruit. There are some weird, new fruits, but they all taste fresh and delicious."

"We´ve had great teaching experiences here. Most the day I´m with my district companion, Elder Stanley, who is from Missouri and is really fun to be around. He´s really big, he was a wrestler in high school, and all the Latinos call him Goliath. We´ve had some powerful teaching moments together, especially on night where we felt the Spirit so strongly, and by following its promptings, we were able to help an investigator who didn´t believe in God gain a testimony that God is real and loves him. I´m sure our teachings will get better and better as we spend more time together. My native companion and I have only taught together one time, but it went well. It was after that lesson that the teacher told me I should be moved up to a class with only Latinos because my Spanish was well developed."

"Elder Manríquez is my native companion, and he comes from Chile. Great guy. I´ll get to know him a lot better this Saturday--we spend almost all day in Lima together teaching inactive members. I´m super excited for that, it´ll be great to practice teaching real people, not just teachers acting as investigators. I can´t wait."

"This morning we got to go to the temple, which was a great experience. It´s amazing how I can be half a world away from all that I know, and yet the Church operates the exact same way here as it does back home. It´s awesome to see. We got to go to a store, TORTUSS, which is like a mall, Sam´s Club, Wal-mart, and a grocery store all in one. They have a lot of American products which is great."

"The bus ride to the temple was hilarious. That bus was so full of people. I have no idea how that bus could move. Four of us are really tall, and we barely fit in that bus. It was very funny, I´ll  try to take a picture of it next week. Very funny, great experience."

Elder Thomas"

~Picture Time~
I believe this is Josh and his district--the group of missionaries he spent most of his time with. This was taken in Provo, Utah right by the temple there..also, Josh got his whole district to do Ab Ripper (from P90X) with him a couple times a week...          

This is Josh with Elder Lee, his companion while at the Provo MTC

Josh with Elder Lee and a teacher at the MTC

Josh with Elder Lee and another teacher at the MTC

Josh with his college roommates Nick (in the middle) and Phil..(this was taken on a P-day)..Amazingly enough, Nick pulled up right behind us when we dropped Josh off at the MTC, and they were just a couple rooms away from each other at the MTC...I didn't know Nick liked puppies so much. Right on.

 The temple in beautiful!

 Josh with some buddies at the MTC (in Peru I believe)

The awesome fountain at the MTC in Lima, Peru..Josh LOVES awesome fountains

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

 Hello again! These are some bits of the emails/letters that Josh has sent us so far. We are going to get another email from him tomorrow, since Wednesdays are his "P-days" (preparation means that he can read/write letters and emails, do laundry, etc.)

Week 1 Provo, Utah MTC (June 21)
"I'm doing great. My district is awesome, and I'm getting along great with my companion"
"The first day here was absolutely crazy...I was extremely homesick for the first few days, but each day got better and better, and now I have no idea how it is already Thursday. Time really is just flying by here. My companion, Elder Lee, is great. He is hard working, fun, and caring, and we get along very well."
"I've gotten my district into doing Ab Ripper-we do it every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. I haven't gained any weight yet, but I can definitely see why Elders gain so much weight here. The food is buy bien."
"My schedule is not that complicated right now. Wake up at 6:30, classroom quick, breakfast at 7:20, study, lunch at 12, study, dinner, study, dinner, study, room at 9:30, bed at 10:30."
"I was so happy to see Sam (Josh's cousin). It made my week-totally unexpected, totally awesome. It was so nice to see a familiar face, especially a family face. I could talk to him so comfortably, and it was just a great thing for me. Sam, if you read this, you're the man. Straight up."
"I have felt the Spirit so strongly here at the MTC, growing day by day. It has really blessed me in my studies. I am praying in Spanish now, and before I study anything I begin with a prayer. I am able to cover so many materials in an amount of time that would be impossible without the Spirit."
"I know that I am in the right place. This is where God wants me to be right now, and I know that is the truth. I know that I have been called of God to preach the gospel of Christ to the world, and that I will be able to help countless people while serving in Ecuador. I love you all so much, and can't wait to hear from you."

Week 1 Provo, Utah MTC (June 21)--a letter he wrote right after he wrote the previous email
"I'm doing so well here. Time is flying by, the days are blending together, and I can't imagine life not being a missionary."
"I was super homesick until Sunday, then something kind of clicked, and now I'm doing dine."
"Basically all my energy is given to studying, and I hardly ever think about the worldly things I though I would miss (except Batman). I know that Heavenly Father is blessing me with the ability to change my lifestyle."
"Thinking  about how much more I need to learn is pretty overwhelming, but I know that the Lord will help me do it."
"It is so important to have the Spirit with us. Pray for it often, and I promise you'll be more productive."
"In one of our (mock) lessons, I challenged him to baptism, he said yes, then I looked at Elder Lee so he would bear his testimony. He leaned over and whispered, "Should we challenge him to baptism?" " I just did, Elder." "Oh..."'
"I am immersed in the work. I am serving with all my heart, might, mind and strength. I miss you all a lot, and am so grateful for your prayers and support."

Week 2 Provo, Utah MTC (June 28)
"I am not dead or hurt, and am not fat. I hope that relieves some of your worries."
"My days have been great and full of studying, and I feel that I am progressing well in both my Spanish and my knowledge of the Gospel. We teach someone for at least 20 minutes a day, all in Spanish, and it has gotten easier and easier to follow along with what they are saying and to keep a conversation going. I was feeling great, until two native speakers came in to help out. They started talking, and my eyes popped out. HOLY COW. How do humans talk that fast? Yowza. I'm working with them to get better at my speed so that when I arrive in Lima I won't be too hopeless, just a little hopeless."
"I'm working as hard as I can to learn what I need to so I can do what the Lord needs me to do as soon as I get to Ecuador."
"I can already see a big difference in myself from just two weeks of training to be a missionary, I can't even imagine what will happen to me after actually being a missionary for two years."

Week 3 Lima, Peru MTC (July 4, 2012)
"I am safely in Peru. It is so so so so so pretty here."
"We got in at about 11:30 last night, and were able to sleep in until 9, which was super nice. I briefly met my companion this morning when he woke up, speaks only Spanish. It´ll be tough, but good for my language skills to have a native speaker with me."
"South America is exactly how I pictured it, full of people, super crowded, and insane drivers. I though for sure we´d kill someone on the bus ride home last night. The guy was absolutely loco. But it was so fun to drive around last night and see what Lima looks like. It looks like it´ll rain any second, but I guess it hardly ever rains. I wish I could describe the MTC here well enough to tell you how beautiful it is. It´s not huge, but there are basketball courts, a nice soccer field, sand volleyball, and the landscaping is breathtaking. We drove past the temple last night, and that was gorgeous as well. I think we are close to the ocean, but I have no idea. You can smell the ocean in the air though, I love it."
"Also, happy Fourth of July. No one here cares except a few people who keep saying "happy day" to the gringos, I´m guessing that they know what today is. No fireworks for us, but maybe we´ll find something to blow up anyways."
"I´m so glad that I´m able to come here before Ecuador. It´s going to help so much with adjust to the actual speed of the language, and helps me adjust to South American culture slowly while still having an American touch of things around here."
"Look up pictures of here on Google, it is honestly just so pretty, plus there´s an awesome fountain."
"It´ll take some adjusting, but this will be a great thing for me. I love you tons, keep praying for me, and I´ll do the same for you.
Con amor,
Elder Thomas"

Sunday, July 8, 2012

    Welcome to this new blog Josh in Ecuador!  I'm Nikki (Josh's sister), and I have started this blog to update anyone interested about Josh (AKA Elder Thomas) as he serves his two year mission in Quito, Ecuador for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints.
    So far, Josh has spent 3 weeks in the Missionary Training Center in Provo, Utah and he just got into the Missionary Training Center that's in Lima, Peru on July 3rd. We (my family and I) have absolutely loved getting emails and letters from Josh each week--he's doing so well! We even got to talk to him on the phone--twice--on the day that he flew to Lima. We didn't get to talk for very long, and at one point his voice sounded like a robot shutting down, but it was wonderful to hear his voice which we've missed so much. Josh is really doing well, and is working hard to learn everything he can in order to be the best missionary that he can. Anyways, I'll be posting some snippets from each of Josh's letters soon!