Monday, February 25, 2013

Josh's quote for this week's email was "What's the use of gold and goose? It' s no excuse for being mean. Cause when we share, we get the share of friends dodaloo do do dodaloo do do dodaloo do do dodaloo..." Lyle the Kindly Viking..I've never heard that before, but maybe you have! Enjoy!

Hey all,

How are you this week? We got some big news on Wednesday, that the mission is gonna get divided on July 1st, 2013. We don't know much more. President Ghent sent us a letter and basically said not to worry about what will happen for now, to keep working, and at the end of June, they'll let us know what our assignment is. If what I heard is right, President Ghent will be the president of the south mission (called just Quito) and another North American, Robinson or something like that, will be the president of the north mission. As I know more, I'll let you know, but that's about all that I got today. I just hope that I am still with President Ghent. He's a great guy, and we were gonna be the last group to finish with him. But, what happens will happen, and it'll be a good thing. The mission is really big, and now we'll be able to open up a lot more sectors for missionaries, especially in the Orient.

I have mastered breakfast, just nailed it. More specifically, I've mastered eggs. I have scrambled eggs with mushrooms, tomatoes, carrots, celery, beans, onions, broccoli, avacado, and peppers almost every morning, and without the yolk, just for you, Dad. Pile on that some delicious herbal tea, a banana, and a little bowl of cereal, well, big bowl of cereal, and skim milk that I finally found. We've got a good exercise routine down, running Tuesday, Thursday, Saturday, and stuff in the house on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. Plus, a papaya now and then when I feel like having a little treat. We're like the only people in the mission who make breakfast. We did divisions with the Zone Leaders, and they were astounded at what we did for breakfast. Now, everyone wants to do divisions with us.

I became really good friends with one of my Zone Leaders, Elder Dearden. He plays soccer for BYU, and he is super fun to be around. He left today with the change, so hopefully I'll see him again sometime. Since disobedience is a big problem in the mission, 6 Zone Leaders got "bajared," or aren't Zone Leaders anymore, to go and train a new missionary that comes tomorrow. Almost all of the Zone Leaders right now leave in July or August, so another factor is that we need new Zone Leaders to replace them, and they need to get trained now. Elder Pande is training now, he was a great Zone Leader. They'll be some big changes coming up, I'm sure, to prepare for the split of the mission, because we'll need a lot of leaders to fill the spots for two missions...

We're doing well with our investigators, and in the next couple of weeks they'll be ready for their baptism. We have a goal in my district to have 20 baptisms in the month of March, to put in our part of the "miracle of March." We're gonna work really hard to get it done. If we work hard, we should have about 8, and with the other 2 companionships in the district, we should get the other 12. If we do it, we're gonna celebrate hard core buy ordering really expensive pizza. No one left from my district other than Elder Dearden, so I get to be with Elder Nelson still. We've been in the same zone for almost our whole mission, which is so much fun. He's an awesome guy, and has really funny stories about things that his Dad says. Plus, when I do divisions with him, we can go to Gringoville and eat American things to our hearts´ content. We should be with the Dowlings on Thursday for dinner..

What else happened this last week...Oh! So, we have this lady, Miriam. Her son got home from his mission in Bolivia like a month ago, and she isn't a member, but ever since he came home, she's been listening to the missionaries and coming to church. She always said that she was reading the Book of Mormon and praying to know if the church was true, but hadn't received her answer. Then, she said that she didn't see the need for the Book of Mormon because the Bible says everything, and that she wasn't really reading the Book of Mormon. Machetied her. Then, she started reading, still no answer. Machetied her on real intent when we read and pray, and she gave the closing prayer of that lesson, and started crying at the end, then left the room before she could say anything else. Her son told us to go, and that he's talk to her. I thought I might have been to harsh or something, so I was a little worried. When we came back, she said that she had felt the Spirit super strongly, and that she knew now that the Church is true, and she's getting baptized the 9th. Sometimes you gotta be harsh with people to make them see the importance of everything. That was a really cool experience for me, and I'm glad that the Lord let me have this experience to build both my faith and Miriam's.

We have the Dad of a member family that we're working with, he's the only non-member. He said he didn't know if he would be ready for baptism for a couple of years, and we were really strict with him, too, in a loving way, of course. He's preparing for the ninth now, and came to Church this Sunday for the first time every, after like a year of missionaries visiting him. He gets along really well with us, and we're usually very calm and relaxed with him ,and that makes the difference, I think. Many missionaries are very rigid and teach, teach, teach, and don't really get to know the people. I've learned how important it is to just relax in the lessons, and really focus on their individual needs. It's a lot more fun that way, too...

Con amor,

Elder Thomas

I got the pictures to work! This is Josh with Esteban

Part of Josh's breakfast of champions

Monday, February 18, 2013

Josh's quote this week was from That Thing You Do: "Where was I? Oh! Playing songs on my guitar."  Enjoy!

Hey all,

Yesterday, we had to be in the house alllllll day. Couldn't leave for any purpose, not even to go eat with a member. It stunk. On Saturday, I thought, "Okay, what can I do tomorrow to keep me occupied?" I came up with two things: read the whole book of Alma, and eat a whole pineapple. In life, we make dumb decisions sometimes. Yesterday, I ate a whole pineapple. A big pineapple. Really big. That maybe was not the best decision that I've made in my life. By the end of the day, the acid destroyed my mouth and I felt like garbage. I felt like that about halfway through the pineapple, but by that time I had gone too far to quit. A word of caution: do not eat a whole pineapple. But, I did read pretty much all of Alma in Spanish, which was good. We also played Monopoly Deal for like 3 hours, so there was that, too. Plus, in February and March, we can't listen to music, so that added to the longness of the day. But, we survived, and here we are, with another day to rest. Monday and Tuesday, we could only leave the house if we had a set cita (for Carnaval), and Sunday we couldn't leave, so it was kind of an off week for us. We're excited to finally have a full week. This is the last week of the transfer, but I'll be here for one more change, at least.

I got a package today with the contact solution, the waffles from Holland, and the sweet journal, thanks so much for sending it. It's a really nice journal, I feel like I need a quill to write in it. I also got Dad's letter with the Alamanac stuff, and a letter from the Lowes. I can't believe that Eliza is almost a year old, and that she's already saying my name and lifting weights, what a champ. And Jack looks like a stud with his Batman pajamas. Thanks for sending letters and packages to me, I feel so loved and important, and that is always a good thing.

We have 12 people with a baptismal date in March, and 8 of those should progress well, the other 4 will be tough. We have Tomás and Ramona, Wilson and María, Santos, Estevan, Angela, Marcos and Márlon, Mauricio and Miriam, and Luzia (the lady from Africa). Luzia's dad was killed in Africa, and she came here to work and to study for hte rest of her life. Her whole family are members of the Church, and she said that she finally has the personal desires to learn more and join the Church. She talks Spanish really cool. It's like and African accent with Spanish, like a Jamaican speaking Spanish. I try to imitate her, and I think that she just thinks that I have a speaking problem. We're keeping really busy, and will have to work very hard to get everyone ready for their date.

I am so jealous that you guys are going to London. Take lots of pictures, and tell me about everything. If you go to Hogwarts, give McGonnagle a haller(? I don't remember how to spell some words), it's been a while since I graduated from there. Also, you should bring some head shots of me with my email, hand them out to everyone you meet, seeing as my wife will be from England. Also, be sure to eat lots of fish and chips. And see lots of plays. One thing that has been a testimony to me that the mission has changed me a little bit is that I have grown an actual desire to see musicals and plays, and not just because the men in the family are outnumbered and have to do what they want. Weird.

Elder Paz is great, I have so much fun with him. We walk a lot, and I push him really hard. The Gasca is literally the side of a mountain, so the days get tiring, and he's knew and all and just wants to sleep all the time. But, his body is adjusting, and he'll be fine in a week or two. He's so funny when he speaks in English. Sometimes, he doesn't know that he's saying bad things, so we gotta fix that a little bit, but he speaks really, really well. I haven't laughed so much in my whole mission, and with him, the days are flying by really quickly. I can't believe that it's almost been a month with him, crazy how fast things go when you work a lot and laugh a lot.

Thanks for sending me some stuff about Joseph Smith, Dad, I'll read it when I have time during the week.

I did divisions with Elder Nelson this week, and we stopped by the Dowling's house to drop off a letter that Elder Nelson was gonna send (I'll try to get a letter off in the next couple of weeks, sorry, I keep forgetting), and they gave us root beer and thin mints. Thin mints. So, for Valentine's Day, Elder Nelson and I had root beer, thin mints, and like four papayas. Papayas are really good right now, and I've grown kind of obsessed. Like at home, and big ol' papaya with lime juice, money. They cost 80 cents right now, so beat that!

That's too bad that all the sports teams that we like stink this year.

This week, we had our zone conference with President Ghent, which was great. Sister Ghent made us sugar cookies, which was so awesome. We talked a lot about our calling as missionaries, and how we need to do better with obedience. We also talked about a talk that Elder Bednar gave in the MTC about Listening, Asking, and Discerning, and how we need all three to be good teachers and good missionaries. We also got the assignment from President Ghent to read 2 Nephi 4, and write our own version of that scripture, so I'll be doing that quickly.

Mom--you wanted to know about my clothes. Everything is fine, shirts especially. They hold up well. Socks are doing okay, may need new ones in a few months. pants are doing okay, one pair is fading. Maybe around the year mark, I can tell you better and maybe get some new stuff. Garments are fine, I was my bedsheets every other week, and I floss daily, so no os preocupéis. Are you doing Rosetta Stone? Practicing Spanish? Also, have you cancelled the alarm system at home and the YMCA membership? If not, that would be a good way to save up some money. I'm trying to budget my money again, but it always just turns into a list of things that I spent money on, which ends up not helping at all, and I just think, "I spent 10 dollars of mangoes?" So, poco a poco, we'll get there.

Today, we went to a mall in our sector, and it was like being in America. Sbarro. Nike Store. Cinnabon. Burger King. Subway. Baskins Robbins. Wow. But, the king of the crop, Crepes and Waffles. That one's for you, Steve-o. So delicious. I had a waffles with berries, whipped cream, and ice cream, and it was super, super good. I will return one day. Also, the have a TGI Fridays and Papa Johns, which look and smell good, but are super expensive here. Elder Nelson bought a Cinnabon, and I think that I will have to do that the next time that we go there.

Someone asked about what I spoke about for 20 minutes last Sunday, and I would tell you more specifics, but I had forgotten my notes at home and made the whole thing up while I was standing there. People said it was good, so we'll take there word for it. I used a few scriptures and Preach My Gospel, but I basically just talked about how we were there to serve them and help them in the ward, and that we were willing to do whatever the asked us, and then President macheteó el barrio. It was pretty sweet.

Time to sign off. Love you all tons, talk to you in a week!

Con amor,

Elder Thomas

Monday, February 11, 2013

Happy Monday! Josh's quote of the week was "...I misspelled the word 'failure' in front of my whole class." That's from Dwight from The Office..another classic one..Enjoy!

Hey all,
Today I don't have as much time to write. Carnaval started on Satuday, and they said it would get kind of nuts, but it's been raining so we haven't really seen anything crazy yet. But they say that tomorrow is the worst day, so we'll see. Everything is closed. We looked for an open cyber café for an hour, and finally found one, but only one computer is open, so we have to share the hour we usually have. We haven't gotten attacked yet, thankfully.
Tomorrow we have our zone conference, it lasts like six hours, but Sister Ghent makes us food, and pizza here is 2 for 1 on Tuesdays, so I can't complain. President and Sister Ghent have been so good to us, helping us to get on our feet here. They came to our sacrament meeting on Sunday and President kind of lovingly chastened the ward, and said that one of the saddest things about missionaries going home is when the members are doing the bad things with them, and then talked a lot about how we all need to be very obedient. They've just been so supportive to us, and we really feel their love and excitement as we open up the new sector. I gave a talk before President Ghent, and talked about the importance of members in missionary work. I forgot all my notes that morning, so I made the talk up, and somehow made it last 20 minutes. It was a good Sunday for us. 5 investigators came to church, one new family that we found, and we now have 7 people with baptismal dates, all in March. We worked really hard this week, and the Lord blessed us greatly. Almost all of the people are from the references, but the new family we found contacting.
President Ghent said that February will be our month of faith. "La fe de FEbrero traerá el milagro de marzo." So for February, we can't listen to music, and a few other new rules just for the month, to help us to really focus on the work, find new people, and see miracles in March. We're excited to work really hard, and find new people. One new investigator, Angela, is awesome. She's a reference from the assistants, and is golden. We went to teach her, and she said that her life had no purpose, that she just sat in her house alone after work, waiting for the day that she would die to come quickly. She said she talked to the missionaries, felt so good, and wanted to learn more. She cried for almost the entire lesson, and excitedly accepted a day to be baptized. It was a really cool experience, to really see how the Gospel can give so much purpose to life.
I have my new camera, but I don't think I have time to load a picture of me and Elder Paz. He's doing well, has a lot to learn, as do I, but we're progressing together and having fun with each other. He sleeps a ton. I go to the bathroom for like 30 seconds, and somehow he's fallen asleep. Not sure how that works, but oh well. I haven't taken a nap yet on my mission. I've wanted to, but even on P-day there isn't time. I've accepted that I just won't sleep much for 2 years, and I can sleep all day when I get home. Mom, I think you said that you'll send a package soon. Is there any way to send another one of those fleece-thermal things from Fleet Farm. It rains a lot here, and that thing is perfect to wear under my rain jacket. If they don't have them in stores still, it's fine, or maybe a sweater or something. If they don't exist, no worries. And did you send contact solution? Do you think it would be better to buy it here? It costs $8 for 90 mL of solution, so I don't know how it would work out.
Eliza is so darn cute in the pictures you sent me, I can't believe how big she is! She is just adorable. Jack, too. He's gigantic. I have a picture of them in my scriptures to show off to people, the one where they're both laughing at home during Christmastime.
Okay, I should give Elder Paz his time. Sorry it's a bit shorter today, pero así toca. Next week I'll write more. Oh, and P.S., I think you guys think that the Embassy is in my ward, and it's not. The missionaries there are in my district, and I'll do splits there and hopefully see the Dowlings every now and again. Just to clarify. Also, when it rains hard, the work doesn't change, and we let the air dry our clothes. The lady who cleans our clothes is a magician. I haven't had my shirts so clean in months! Thanks for all your love and support, I appreciate it all. Love you guys tons, talk to you in a week!
Con amor,
Elder Thomas

Monday, February 4, 2013

Hola! We got an exciting phone call a couple of days ago from a woman who met Josh! In fact, her husband works at the U.S. Embassy where Josh is, and they had him and his companion over for dinner. She decided to find our number and call us, and it was awesome. Josh's quote of the week: "No! I think I can save the hat! It landed on that Hyundai...I mean...mermaid's car..." Troy Barnes, Community

Hey all,

This week was a whirlwind. Opening a sector is hard, but it's going well. The leaders in the ward are excellent, excellent. We got 16 references from the leaders in this first week. 16! We'll be working hard to get in contact with them. There was a lady from Africa at church yesterday, and we're visiting her tonight. Little by little, we're building up a program here. Zona Quito is so so so so so so so so different from Chillogallo. This is the "rich" part of Quito. In Chillogallo, the dogs were covered in their own filth, here they have bows in their hair. There aren't really any dirt streets here. As Elder Nelson put it, "In Chillogallo, I felt like I never needed to shower." It's very different. There are good things and bad things about that. Good thing, we live by all the big stores and restaurants downtown, and we're a 10 minute walk from the offices. Bad things, we live on a mountain and have to walk up very steep hills, and the richer people are very proud and not as receptive as the poorer people in the south. If we go up really high in our sector, the people are poorer, and they tell us that that is where the missionaries usually have the most success. Overall, I really like my new sector, called the Gasga.

I felt like I was cheating when I went to the Dowling's house on Tuesday. I was waiting for Elder Paz to arrive, so I went on splits with Elder Nelson for two days while he was waiting, too. It was like being in America. Root beer, pizza, banana bread, ENGLISH, plus the husband is totally Jason Bourne, like no joke. He told us stories from the different places that he's served for protection, and it's crazy. When they go back in a couple of months, you guys will have to meet up with them, they're really great people. They don't speak much Spanish, so it's been tough for them. There are 5 gringo families in Elder Nelson's sector. I'm doing divisions there on Thursday, so maybe we'll stop by again...

Like I said, when I was in their house, I felt like I was cheating. It was nicer than any house I've ever seen in Ecuador, but in the states, it's a normal house, more or less. But I felt like I stepped out of Ecuador for a bit and could enjoy some US time. They said that soon they'll have a BBQ with us--in the embassy they have a grocery store like a regular store in the US. They're great, great people.

We had an overall tough week, lots of walking, lots of contacting, not too much success. But, we'll just keep going. Sometimes I don't really understand why I feel so happy in the mission. I face a ton of rejection every day from tons of people, but I'm almost always smiling. Some days, we come back after contacting all day, not having found anyone to teach, but I go to bed happy. What's up with that! Some days, I'll admit, it's hard to stay happy and animated, but as I keep working hard, it eventually goes away. I love that about the mission. This is without any doubt the hardest thing that I've ever done in my life to this point (because high school and a year of college were sooooo hard), but I've learned to be happy when things are hard, laugh when nothing seems to go right, it's great.

Elder Paz is so awesome. I think he's my favorite companion so far. We tell jokes, laugh, and work hard every day. He's come 80% pre-trained, so it's a bit of a change from training Elder Sanchez, who come in knowing nothing. I bet that's how it feels being a parent, seeing different things in each "child" that I have, and learning how to change the way you do things to help them the most. Elder Paz is already famous in the mission. People meet him, and all the gringos say, "Oh! You're the kid who watched every episode of Friends three times and learned English!" He's just super fun, and makes friends very easily. He said he'd always hated, hated English, but loved watching Friends. He watched every episode once, with English subtitles, then every episode again without them, and he could understand it. By the end of the third time through, he said "I didn't even mean to, and I could speak English!" He wants to write a book about his experience and how other people can do it, and call it "Learning English with Friends" (nailed the pun). I'm super excited to work with him and to get to know him better. He's from Lima, baptized when he was 11, family got sealed in December.

The ward is great, we have two missionaries who got back about 2 weeks ago, and a kid who isn't studying or working, just preparing for the mission, so it's pretty easy to get people to work with us. We're gonna visit the leaders of each organization throughout the next few week and get to know them, and let them know that we're here to serve them. The two missionaries before us did some serious damage, and a lot of the members are very cold to us. It's so sad that some missionaries choose to be disobedient, and they don't realize the consequences of their actions. We basically don't have an area book, many members don't like us, and we have to start from scratch. In the last 2 months, 15 missionaries have had to be sent home for disobedience. It's just so, so sad. President and Sister Ghent are awesome, though. After I got Elder Paz, they knew we didn't know much about our sector, so they drove us around it, showed us all the important places, and took us to our house. Sister Ghent made us food to eat, and have just been so supportive to us. We live very close to their home, and they said we can bring a family there to have family night and to eat dinner whenever we want. They left and told us, "We're praying and rooting for you!" I feel like I've gotten a lot closer to them in the past month or so, and I'm super excited to be closeby them and to continue to get to know them well. They are great, great people.

It's about that time. Hopefully we'll have some great experiences this week, and I can write about them next Monday. We're gonna work hard and see some big miracles. I love you all tons, keep writing me. Oh, and Steve-o, I live super close to the Marriott. Crepes and Waffles, baby, gametime.

Con amor,

Elder Thomas