Monday, January 28, 2013

Happy Monday! So Josh got transferred and is a district leader in the new area. He's getting a new companion to train and is feeling a bit overwhelmed, but as all of us know, he will do his best and conquer the task at hand. His title this week was "'Excuse me, are you the singing bush?' Ned Needleander"..that's a quote from The Three Amigos, a classic. Enjoy!

Hey everyone,

I don't have much time to write. I don't know anything about my sector. Neither do the Zone Leaders. I get my new companion on Wednesday. The old missionaries didn't do anything with the area book, so not much to play with there. I was in my house for about 30 minutes today, and I won't be back till Wednesday, so I'll unpack then. We're in the biggest zone in the mission, 19 missionaries and the asistants/secretaries, but everyone says that they don't count. I'll be the leader of six missionaries. We'll probably be contacting all week, nothing more than that until we can find some people. I'm pretty scared, to be honest. But, fear and faith can't coexist, so I'll put all of my faith in the Lord and trust that He will lead us to the people that are ready to hear us. I'm a little frustrated, to be honest. I left GuamanĂ­ with 8 people ready to be baptized, and in this month, they'll have all 8. I guess the Lord is just helping me to work harder and to build my faith more to find His children that need our help. This transfer will only be four weeks to fix the new MTC schedule for all the missionaries since they will be there 30% less now. The missionaries that go home this year go home two weeks early since this transfer is shorter, and I think that that means that I'll be home 2 weeks early too, but I'm not positive. I have 6 minutes more to write, so I'll write better next week. But I feel really overwhelmed. But, the good thing is, that one of the missionaries in my district is from my group, and he was with me almost all of my time in Chillogallo, so it'll be great to be with him. His sector has the US Embassy, so there are gringoes that cook American food. I will be doing divisions there a lot. I love you all, pray lots for me, and I'll talk to you all in a week. Oh, and Elder Sanchez is still in GuamanĂ­, junior companion... Love you all tons.

Con amor,

Elder Thomas

Monday, January 21, 2013

Happy Monday! Josh's title was a classic Dwight quote from The Office..the quote is from an episode where there's a bat in the office and Jim pretends to be turning into a vampire to trick Dwight. "If there was a vampire in the States, it would make sense for it to come to a PENNsylvania."

Hey all,

First off, I need to talk about my experience with arguably the dumbest North American that exists in the world today. We were walking to lunch on Wednesday, and a car came up to us and asked for my help. They said that there was a North American wandering around, couldn't speak a word of Spanish (why is he here?) and very clearly lost. We hopped in his car to go talk to him and help him. After about 10 minutes, we found him, and I went up to him with Elder Sanchez to help him find his way. I went up to him, and with a smile, said, "Hello, I understand that you're a little lost and could use some help." He looked at me with such hope in his eyes, then saw our missionary plaques, and said, "No, I'm okay." I wanted to punch him right in the face, very Christlike of me, I know. He walked away before I could say more, but I stood there thinking, "Dumb man. There is not one other person anywhere close to us that could help him. I speak Spanish and English, and have lived here for six months. I could literally get him anywhere that he needed to go." Stupid. But, all things happen for a reason, and the man who drove us in his car and his family are getting baptized the 9th, which was a cool experience. He turned out to be the brother of a member, and they were really excited to listen to us. So, long story short, dumb American, great family that we ended up finding.

My time here is coming to a close. Week 24 here, holy cow. That's a long time to be in one sector.I've learned and grown so much here. My first two changes were so difficult for me. I wasn't very happy, and I never really felt like my efforts were doing anything. In these 3 months, I grew so close to the Lord, and learned to depend on Him in everything that I do. I was humbled, and progressed a lot in my relationship with my Savior. I learned to understand the significance of the Atonement more in my life, to understand how often Jesus Christ helps me in everything I do in my life, and what it means to be truly be converted. I learned to work hard, and to keep working, when nothing seems to be going right. I learned what Heavenly Father truly wants for me as a missionary, and what He wants me to do to help other people understand their purpose in life.

My last 3 months here were complete opposites. We had great, great, great success, and I know that it is all thanks to the Lord. We've been able to help many people not only be baptized, but to become converted to the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Every convert we have is at church every Sunday. We don't have to call or pass by their house anymore, they come on their own. They have friends and faith, which will keep them coming to church for years and years. Sonia is now the Young Women's secretary after having a month in the church, and is so excited about it. Sneider and his mom, Sonia, are already starting to save up for Sneider's mission, and are faithfully paying their tithing and seeing the blessings from doing so. The Ponce family is struggling as the father left and the mom is struggling to find work, but they are receiving help from fast offerings and serving well in the church. Pamela, one of the daughters, is so, so, so smart. She knows so much about the church already, and I don't know how. She is faithfully attending seminary, and is the smartest student in the class, according to the teach. The Santos family is doing well, the son, Dennis, received the Aaronic Preisthood and now passes the Sacrament. The Morales family (brother of the man from the first story) is doing well. The wife, Veronica, gave a great talk in church this Sunday, and she and her husband plan on going to the temple this year. All of the recent converts are going to the temple at the end of March to do baptisms for the dead with the bishopric, and all are very excited to go. I understand how Ammon feels in chapter 26 in Alma. I just wanted to shout out how happy I feel seeing these people having such happier lives. I feel so blessed to have been an instrument in the Lord's hands, and to have been a part of the conversion of these wonderful people. It is going to be very, very hard to leave this ward. The bishop expressed his appreciation for me, and wants me, Mom, and Dad to come visit him when the mission ends.

99.999999999% chance of me leaving in a week. I hope that I end up going to the coast, because the seafood is super good there, and people say that the rice isn't bad. Plus, there are a lot of black people, and they speak Spanish a little differently. They say "diga" and "b" at the end of almost every sentence, and drop all of their s´s. If I go there, I am going to learn how to talk "thug" Spanish. Also, if I do get sent there, I may not be able to write, just a head´s up. The farthest away sector in the coast is 8 hours away, and if I go there, time may be tight. So don't freak out if I don't write next week. Diga.

I finally got the blanket. Soft? Yes. Warm? Yes. Gigantic? Yes. Wolves? Absolutely. I love it, it rocks, and it howls, too. Those are some pretty fly wolves on the blanket. Please be sure to thank J.P and his family for me.

I got one package, today there wasn't another one in the offices, so they'll get to me eventually when they come if I do leave Quito. I got some letters today, a handwritten one from Dad and some dear elder letters. Trevor, I loved the story about the kiss cam. Classic kiss cam/old people moment. Remember the episode of Modern Family when Gloria and Phil were on the kiss cam? Great episode...

There is this 14 year old, Michael, who I think I've talked about before, that is just a stud. We have 4 investigators with a baptismal date all thanks to him. He's given us so many references, and we just go out and work with him, and we talk with his friends together. Every reference we gave him was at church this Sunday, and they all are super excited to get baptized. I'm a little sad that I'm leaving, because in the next cambio, a lot of our investigators will get baptized. But, I know that Elder Sanchez and his new companion will take care of them and see everything through. I'm going to miss everyone here that I've grown to know and love over the last six months, and I really hope that I'll be able to see them again someday.

That's about all I've got today. I think that there was more that I wanted to say, but I'll probably remember those things in about an hour. Remember, if I don't write next week, I'm okay, just traveling far away. I love you all tons, thanks for all that you do for me. You're all the best, and we'll talk to you soon. Oh! And I bought a Book of Mormon in Quichua, I'm gonna learn a new language. Halla!

Con amor,

Elder Thomas

Monday, January 14, 2013

Josh's title this week was "It's time to CHAAANNG your point of view."--Senor Chang..That's from Community, just fyi..enjoy!

Hey all,

This week was a pretty good week for us. There is a 14 year old, named Michael, who gave us 4 references this last week, and they're all progressing investigators now. Two need to get married, but they all came to church and loved, loved, loved it. In my experience, if you can get an investigator to church one time, it's golden, because everyone talks to them, welcomes them, and they just feel really good and want to come back. Especially with references. I love references. Every reference that we've gotten that we've been able to contact with the reference-giver has progressed and most have been baptized. It makes such a difference when they know someone in the church. Plus, one of the references has a ton of family that are members, and she said she's always noticed something different about them, and wanted to know why they were so happy. The Lord really does prepare people.

I am sorry to hear about Bro. Marklevitz. He really was a wonderful, wonderful man, and was truly converted to the Church. I learned a lot from him when Dad and I home taught them, and I hope all will be okay for his family.

We had two awesome guys that were gonna get baptized last Saturday, but they had to move last minute to the coast, which was a bit of a bummer for us. But, we passed along the reference to the missionaries out there, and they should have been baptized by now. It's tough when things like that happen, but it's a good reminder that all the missionaries are on the same team, hoping to help people to have a better life, and that you can count on missionaries anywhere to do their job and help out everyone. They were really cool and really black, and really fun to be around. But, that's how it goes sometimes!

We had interviews with President Ghent this week, and they went really well. He told me, paraphrasing, "I'm really happy with everything you're doing. All the reports that I hear about you are great, I just want you to keep doing what you're doing. I think about you a lot, but never worry about you, which is probably the best thing a mission president could say to you." He's a great president, a great man. I don't interact with him too much, but every time that we talk, I feel like we know each other 100 times better. I'm excited to continue to build my relationship with him. Sister Ghent is great, too. Every time that we have a reunion, she always tries to give a talk. She's not very good at Spanish, but everyone loves and respects her so much for giving it her all to let us know that she cares about us and the work. Great people.

Question. I never got a Young Men's medallion. Someone in our ward got one this week, and I was thinking, " off! I never got one?" I did the Duty to God stuff, is there any way I could be rewarded a Post-Humous Young Men's Medallion? They look really cool in Spanish, and if something looks good in Spanish, it's gotta look good in English. My cardboard cutout can go to church and receive the medallion on my behalf, or Dash.

Thanks for walking Dash and taking care of him. I forgot to mention that last week. It means a lot to me that you're willing to do that, and I know that he loves it too. If you met one dog here, you would all think that Dash is an angel. His barking is nothing. I officially named one dog here my enemy, and anytime that I walk by, he barks so ferociously at me. I pelt him with a rock. My hope is that before I leave, my rock makes him fall off the roof, and he dies. I do not like dogs here, they are the worst.

President Ghent asked us to start reading the Book of Mormon from the beginning as a mission, and to note all the scriptures that have to do with obedience. We had interviews on Thursday when he asked us to do that, and in four days, I have found almost 100 scriptures that talk about obedience, and I haven't even finished 1 Nephi. Nephi was a very obedient guy. Examples of his obedience are as simple as an angel telling him to look, and he looks. He was and is a great example of obedience. I'm excited to get to learn more about obedience as I read through the Book of Mormon again.

We finally got the Liahona from Novemeber on January 13th. A little delayed, but that's okay. I've downloaded the talks onto the mp3 player, and listen to/read at least on talk every day. I love General Conference. The session in April will be here before we know it. Those men and women are truly called of God, and I feel so happy and enlightened after re-reading their talks again. We have yet to receive the Liahona from January.

Lorenzo Snow was the man. I feel like I can relate to him really well. I didn't know that he was so big into studying and learning. We should all be more like him; we should never feel like we're done learning. I loved the examples in the manual where it talked about him being 86 and at the end of a conference talking about how much he had learned. What a stud. I love learning, too. I'm glad that I have been blessed with an analitical mind, and have a knack for learning. I honestly wish that we could have more study time during the day--there is never enough time to study everything that I want to study. We get home at night, plan, and I get reading as fast as I can. I have 10 new goals for 2013, I'll send you them next week because I don't have them with me, but a lot of them are about study habits. I want to really use my study time as wisely as possible to get the most out of it.

Thank you for sending a new camera and for sending the recipes. I will not be in this zone two weeks from today. I have no idea where I will go, although I hope that I go to the coast. If I'm out of Quito, they send packages and mail every Thursday, so it won't be delayed by too much more. I will go to the offices next week just in case I leave Quito, and it'll be my last time there for a while to see if I have anything waiting. I got the Jensen family Christmas card, you guys look great, although I don't believe that Quincey's smile is real. Thanks to all who write me, and sorry that I can't write back personally to each one of you. There is not enough internet time, and I don't know how to get letters to the US that I write. The letter from September still hasn't arrived. Know that I love and cherish each letter and package...

I should probably close up shop. Love you all tons, thanks for writing me and sending me stuff, you're all the best. Thank you for all that you do to help and to support me. 

Con amor,

Elder Thomas

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Josh's title this week was "Chip chip chip chip chip chip chip chip, NANNY!" from the Three Amigos (sorry if you don't know that reference, if you don't that quote probably scared you a little bit..) Enjoy!

Hey all,

I was thinking a lot this week about what I could write to you all. Writing is really tough. I have an hour to use the internet, and I need to use about 20 minutes to do things for the mission, another 10 to read you letters, and about a half hour to write all the things that I want to write. I never, ever write everything I want to write, and I want to do better, especially expressing my gratitud for everything that you guys do for me. I was reading a talk that Dad sent with his prayer talk research, and I loved what Elder Bednar said. He said how every once in a while, we should give a prayer of gratitud, nothing else. We don't ask for blessings, help, nada. We just express our gratitud. Today, I have a lot of things that I would like to talk to you all about, but today, I'm gonna take Elder Bednar's advice and apply it to weekly letter writing. Entonces.....

The Letter of a Debtor
By Elder Thomas
With Dwight Schrute

First off, I want to express my gratitud to each member of my immediate family.

Dad, thank you so much for all the support you have always been willing to give me throughout my life. Be it physical, emotional, spiritual, or financial support, you have always been there to help me out. I use your example in a lot of my teachings, almost every day I talk about you to my investigators. Whenever someone doesn't want to accept a baptismal date, I always use the example of when I was about 12 and really wanted to get serious about basketball. You were with me in the church gym whenever you could be there with me, helping me practice and get better. We focused on many different things, and soon, I could see a difference in how I played, and now I can say that I play well. They like the analogy, and usually accept the date afterwards, when they see it as a goal that we'll work towards together. You are a very selfless person, and I love and respect you so much. I cannot thank you enough for all that you've done for me, and I will always consider you to be one of the best friends I could every have.

Mom, you rock. Of course you are the Stake Relief Society President. Look of, Salt Lake, here comes Mama Thomas. You are such a wonderful, loving person, Mom. You show this love to every person you talk to, and everyone can feel your love. You care about and visit people that probably don't deserve love or a visit, and you do so happily. I am so grateful for your example. I teach a lot of single mothers, and I encourage them all to try to be like my mom. We read scriptures about the power of a mother in a person's life, and always give an example of my wonderful mother. I have learned so very much from you about how to love and how to treat others, and I use these skills daily. You love and care for me, and do all that you can to help me, even when I'm half a world away. I love you for that, and hope that you understand how much it means to me.

Erica/Andrew, you are the best oldest sister that I've ever had. I feel bad for not being around to get to know Eliza, but I can tell from all the pictures/videos that you are a wonderful mother, and Andrew is a wonderful father. You two are such a great example of how to love your spouse. You treat each other as complete equals, and Andrew, you will do whatever you need to to take care of Erica. You have a very cute baby, and an awesome little family. Erica, you've been such a good oldest kid for all of us, always being the one to try things for the first time. That takes courage, and I am grateful for your example to all of your siblings. Andrew, you've grown to be an excellent friend to me over these few years. I know that I can always talk to you when I need advice or just need to talk. Thank you for being there for me. I love you both tons, and thank you for your letters and support as I've been out on my mission.

Natalie/Alex, Jack is a chunker. I love seeing pictures of him, and can't believe that he's grown so much in just six months. Thanks for sort-of remembering me every week. I love your letters and advice, and seeing pictures of all you guys. You were a great support to me when I was out at BYU, the year would have been tough without you guys. You continue to be a great support to me here in Ecuador, and I appreciate everything that you've done to help me out here and keep me animated to work. Alex, you're a great friend to me, too, just as Andrew has grown to be. Thanks for spending time with me and playing basketball with me, those are some of my favorite memories from BYU. I'm sure you're the man at work, and rocking it as EQP. Natalie, I can tell from the pictures that you, too, are an awesome mother. Keep teaching Jack they ways of Batman, but maybe focus more on Robin since I'll fill the Batman seat. Thank you for being a good friend to me, and helping me to learn how to laugh when times are tough. I love you both tons, and keep up the good work.

Heather/Trevor, you guys are just rocking the celebrity couple world from what I hear. (My source is a Latino that has never seen technology). So first, congrats on that. What's the next big movie for you two? It better be good. You guys know how much you both mean to me. I was probably with you guys almost daily in some area of  BYU, and somehow you never got sick of me. Thank you for being my friends at BYU, and helping me to stay focused in my studies, and not pull a Nick and Karl and live in the living room for a month. Heather, you've always been my buddy, and I have many fond memories with you. You are such an outstanding person in every way, and never doubt that. The Lord has big things in store for you, just keep on keepin' on. Trevor, thanks for always playing basketball with me during the week and helping me with homework (thanks to Heather for this, too). You are wicked smart, and I love playing basketball with you and just being around you. You two are wonderful, wonderful, wonderful people, and keep up the good work. I love you guys, and thank you for writing and supporting me every week.

Nikki, how are you a Senior? I hope you are loving your Senior year. Have lots of fun, and just enjoy it. I should have enjoyed high school more, you just have so many opportunities to do super fun things with fun people. Go to New York City, if Mom and Dad let you. You'll be fine with the homework, you're a Thomas after all. You have a wonderful ability to think of other people. Few people truly can do this, really consider other people more important than their own selves. You love and serve, much like Mom. You have a wonderful brain, too, Nikki. Be confident, you rock every test you take.  You are a beautiful, intelligent young women, and shouldn't ever talk to boys. Remember to have fun during the day. I can have two horrible days in a row in the mission, but they can feel completely different depend on how I choose to feel. One day, I may feel worthless, and the day seems awful. The next day, the same things can happen, but I find that if I smile more, I enjoy the day more. So be happy, love each day. Thank you for your love and support, and for all the things that you do for me.

Amber, stop growing up, stop talking to boys. My goodness. Are you best friends with Puff yet? First off, Amber, thanks so much for always being willing to help me out when I ask for different things from you/the family. It means a lot to me, although I may not always say it. Time is always short, so I'm saying it now that every week that I ask for something, I'm always grateful for your efforts to help me. Remember to study hard. Enjoy high school, but get good grades. It's possible, it just usually takes more work than we want to put in. Put in the work, it's always worth it. Have good friends that you can keep for the rest of your life. If they'r gonna be a bad influence, don't be friends with them. You are a wonderful baby of the family to all of us. We all love you tons, and know that you're going to do great things with your future. Thanks for putting up with all the stuff the baby of the family has to put up with from the older siblings. Don't be too spoiled by Mom and Dad when you're all alone. Study lots, in school and in the Gospel, and you'll be blessed. I love you tons, Bam, and keep up the good work. Thanks so much for all you do for me.

Dash--Woof, woof, woof, woof. Miss you, buddy. Don't forget me, and lose some weight for Pete's sake.

Eliza-- Druel, druel, druel, liiiiiiiiigggggggggggghhhhhhhhttttttttt...whoa. Keep on being cute.

Jack--Food, food, food, Batman! Keep on chunkin'.

I'm grateful for America, and the freedoms that we enjoy there. I'm grateful that I can be in Ecuador for two years to preach the Gospel and help people to have a better life. I'm grateful that I can now speak two languages fluently. I'm grateful for technology that allows us to keep us connected instantly. I'm grateful for the people that I've met here, and for the influence that they've had in my life. I'm grateful for Quichua, it is a super cool language that I'm trying to learn. It has Hebrew roots, and many of the names of people in the Book of Mormon have Quichua roots. Sounds like the Book of Mormon is awfully true. Dios pashimit quilcascha fangacuna means Bible.

I'm grateful for food from America. I'm grateful for Chicago deep dish pizza. I'm grateful for Chipotle. I'm grateful for Captain Crunch.

I'm grateful for all the friends that I have in the States and for their love and support. I'm thankful for all the love and support of my extended family and friends, and all the things that you've sent to me.

I'm grateful that I have an hour every week to stay in touch with you guys, and hear about things that are going on in your lives. I am thankful for many things, that I don't have time to write. It's tough, probably impossible, to write everything that I'm grateful for.

And most of all, I am grateful for my Savior. I am honored to have the opportunity to talk about Him every day to people half a world away from my home. He is a person that is difficult to comprehend. He voluntarily gave His life for a world full of sinners, a world full of people who don't deserve what He did for us. He is the best friend of every person on the earth, whether they know it or not. He is always fighting for us, always willing to help us. I will love Him forever for that. He died for me, suffered for me, and continues to live for me. I bear testimony that He is the Savior of the world, and that every person in the world can find more happiness in life if they can find ways to grow closer to Him. Jesus is the Christ. Everything that happend in His life was designed to help us grow to be better people, and one day, through His efforts, we can become perfect, just like Him. I know that He lives, I know that He loves me, and I know that He blesses our lives in ways that we cannot fully comprehend.

I love you all, every single person that reads my letters. You are all wonderful people, and I love and respect all of you. While we all may be wonderful, we can become even better through Christ, and I invite you all to find ways to be a better disciple of Him. Thank you for all of your prayers, love and support, and please keep it up. I appreciate it so much, and hope that I can find ways to repay you all. You all rock, keep on being awesome, and find ways to be more awesome.

Con amor y gratitud,

Elder Thomas