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