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