Saturday, March 30, 2013

So I put the wrong email address on a previous post for Josh's email is really:

Any emails to Josh will be much appreciated! He usually prints his emails off in the later morning, just an fyi

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

This is Josh's email from yesterday--the one from last week is on the post before this (sorry these are late!) Enjoy!

Title: "You made the team! The Daddy team!" (from a ridiculously cheesy movie that you probably haven't seen)

Hey all,

So first things first. Any of you who are reading this can now email you and, wait for it, I can email you back. Settle down, settle down, I know it's a big deal. I also have 2 hours every Monday to write, so I can very easily write anyone back who writes me. Some weeks, I feel like even an hour is too much, so there is plenty of time for you. Now none of you have an excuse to not write me. So next week, I expect 25 emails or more from the people back home. Woo-hoo!

Next week, we can start listening to music again, too, so we're getting pretty excited for that. Elder Paz really likes to sing, but he cannot. He wrote the book on tone-deafness. Bless his heart. But it's fun to sing with him, and we're usually laughing by the end of the song because he knows that he sounds horrible.

Easter this week! I almost forgot. Also, I hadn't thought once about March Madness until I read about it from you guys today. It's crazy how easily you forget about things like that when you're on your mission. Here, they make something called Fanesca to celebrate Easter. It's some kind of soup with fish and 12 different grains to represent the Apostles. Side note, when eating it, how do they not think, why aren't there Apostles today. Anyways, everyone says that it's delicious, but that just sounds like a whole lot of fiber to me, so let's hope they don't give me too much. They also eat some kind of dried fish that has been dried since last Easter, and everyone says that it's gross. So I'll probably have to eat a lot of it.

Every Thursday, I go to another sector for divisions. One reason is to avoid the lady that serves us lunch. I don't think anyone cooks worse than her. I love hearing the stories of what the Elders do to not eat her food. Last week, she had to leave after serving them. They said the soup was inedible, and so they went to the sink to pour it down the drain. As they did so, the drain clogged. Imagining their panic, I laughed pretty hard. For fifteen minutes, they did all that they could to get the soup to go down the drain, and a miracle was performed as it all went down. They day was saved. Every meal, we have soup, and a plate of something, usually chicken, rice, and beans. This lady usually gives them a plate of rice and bananas. If there is meat, no one wants to eat it. She has no dog to feed with the food, so there is no choice but to eat it. Elder Paz didn't like that, so he brings napkins and zip-lock bags to hide the food and not eat it. It's a crack up every week to hear about the adventure there.

I'm getting really excited for General Conference. We're gonna have a blast. Sister Ghent usually makes food, the gringos from Elder Nelson's sector bring stuff, and there is a burger place nearby that opened, and a guy from the states owns it. It's got root beer. We're super excited. To be honest, Conference is a lot better than Christmas. Christmas, you just sit inside and wallow in self pity, thinking about what the family is doing at home. But Conference, it's basically two days where we don't work, we eat lots of food, are listening to someone talk in English, and get spiritually uplifted. What more can you ask for?

We had a baptism this week of a young man named Santiago. There wasn't a suit big enough for him, so he squeezed into a little one. He was happy, didn't want tons of people there. His brother is about to leave on his mission, which helped him to learn more about the Church. We've had a great month of March, and now we have to start finding new people to teach again. This week, we didn't have too many lessons, which was a bummer, but we'll do better this week. It's not a bad thing to lack investigators if they are all progressing to baptism, but it stinks when they all get baptized and then you need to find a ton of new people to teach. Usually, in rich sectors like this, you can only find investigators through references, but we've had a lot of success contacting. We go up super, super high where all the poor people live, and they are way more receptive to listen. The people down low are all Catholic and super rude to us, which kind of stinks, but we always leave them with a smile. So, we'll just keep on working and we'll be guided to the right people who need to listen to us right now. We didn't have any investigators at church this week, which always stinks, but all of our converts were there, which doesn't stink.

I finished the Book of Mormon this week in Spanish for the second time. To my count, 1318 scriptures talk about obedience in some way. Mom told me that there are 6604 scriptures in the Book of Mormon, which works out to be almost exactly 20%, or 1 in 5. It would appear that being obedient is important to the Lord. There are lots of great examples of obedience in the Book of Mormon, and we should learn lots from them. I like Moroni's obedience, both the captain and the last Nephite. Being the last Nephite on earth would be a really good excuse to just give up and to stop trying. But, Moroni understood the importance of being obedience, and continued following the Lord until he died, which to me is a wonderful example. Moroni the captain is just a stud.
11 And Moroni was a astrong and a mighty man; he was a man of a perfect bunderstanding; yea, a man that did not delight in bloodshed; a man whose soul did joy in the liberty and the freedom of his country, and his brethren from bondage and slavery;
 12 Yea, a man whose heart did swell with thanksgiving to his God, for the many privileges and blessings which he bestowed upon his people; a man who did labor exceedingly for the awelfare and safety of his people.

 13 Yea, and he was a man who was firm in the faith of Christ, and he had asworn with an oath to defend his people, his rights, and his country, and his religion, even to the loss of his blood.

16 And also, that God would make it known unto them awhitherthey should go to defend themselves against their enemies, and by so doing, the Lord would deliver them; and this was the faith of Moroni, and his heart did glory in it; bnot in the shedding of blood but in doing good, in preserving his people, yea, in keeping the commandments of God, yea, and resisting iniquity.

 17 Yea, verily, verily I say unto you, if all men had been, and were, and ever would be, like unto aMoroni, behold, the very powers of hell would have been shaken forever; yea, the bdevilwould never have power over the hearts of the children of men.

 Really, who doesn't want those things being said about them? All of these great men are such great examples because they were obedient. They knew what was right and what was wrong, and their actions always reflected that. So, let's be obedient, as Nephi says--

12 Yea, and how is it that ye have forgotten that the Lord is able to do all athings according to his will, for the children of men, if it so be that they exercise bfaith in him? Wherefore, let us be faithful to him.

Obedience brings blessings, that much I know. It is not always easy to be obedient to the Lord and His commandments, but it is always worth it.

Easter is such a great time of year. It really should be the happiest time of the year for us. Too often people associate the Atonement with some kind of eternal sadness, which is the opposite of how it should be. Yes, Christ suffered greatly in the Garden and on the cross, but people sometimes forget what happened after those things. I don't remember who, but some leader of the Church said that some of the happiest words in the scriptures that we find are in Matthew 28:5, "he is not here: for he is risen." It is important that we understand and appreciate the suffering and pain that Christ went through in the Atonement, but we should rejoice in the fact that He was resurrected. He overcame that pain, He overcame death, and He will now live forevermore as a glorified, immortal Being, and will never again have to sweat blood for us. His resurrection is the model for us, the great gift that we will all receive. We will all pass through sufferings and hardships, not as difficult as those of Christ, but difficult nonetheless. But, like Christ, we all are destined to overcome those trials; we are destined to follow the path that Christ followed. We will be blessed with an eternal, perfect body, and will never again suffer the pains we go through on earth. In Alma 40, we read, "
12 And then shall it come to pass, that the spirits of those who are righteous are received into a state of ahappiness, which is calledbparadise, a state of rest, a state of cpeace, where they shall rest from all their troubles and from all care, and sorrow.
 23 The asoul shall be brestored to the cbody, and the body to the soul; yea, and every limb and joint shall be restored to its body; yea, even a dhair of the head shall not be lost; but all things shall be restored to their proper and eperfect frame.
 24 And now, my son, this is the restoration of which has beenaspoken by the mouths of the prophets—

 25 And then shall the arighteous shine forth in the kingdom of God."

I testify that that is the destiny that all of us have before us. From the beginning, God has planned for us to overcome our trials on earth to return to live with Him in a state of happiness, and without the life and love of Jesus Christ, that wouldn't be possible. I know that Christ suffered for the sins of the world, and that only through Him, we can return to live with God. I know that, despite His suffering, He rose again. We should all rejoice in knowing that, in knowing that no pain or sorrow will last forever, and that only happiness awaits us as we follow the gospel of Jesus Christ. I hope that you all have a wonderful, happy Easter with all of your loved ones.

Here is a great video for all to watch in this coming week.

I love all of you tons, and expect to hear from you all next week. My email is jthom27(at) Have a wonderful Easter week, and take some time to read in the Bible the story of the first Easter. Thank you for all of your love and support every day, and we'll be hearing from you in a week!

Con amor,

Elder Thomas

And pictures!

So sorry for being the worst--I've been out of town and didn't get to a computer to post Josh's last letter. But I have good news for everyone! You, yes you, can email Josh anytime  you'd like, and he can email you back! His email is:

Pretty exciting, huh? I'll post his letter from last week on this post and his latest letter on the next. Enjoy!

Title:"What's your dentist's name?" "...Krentist" (from The Office)

Hey all,

Guess who got to eat with a gringo family again? This guy! We had an awesome BBQ, and I ate a TON. Nailed it. The highlight? They have Ghost Chili sauce. That's right, hottest sauce in the world. Totally had like 10 drops of it, almost died. But it was a really fun night. The family has lived in Greece and other parts of Europe for like their whole lives. Only one of their kids was born in the US. Pretty cool. I hope that this Thursday I get another gringo dinner during divisions. I forgot that in the US, for meals we put all of the food on the table and you just take what you want. I wish that it was like that here. People would be like, "You can choose whatever you want to eat here, we have gross cow leg soup or pizza. Take what you want!" If only...

We had an awesome week this week. Esteban and the Condor family all got baptized this week. They're very excited and are progressing well. I've never seen so many people come to a baptism before. Honestly, pretty much the whole ward was there. It was a very cool experience, and everyone felt a lot of support from the people that were there. So that was a great experience. After the baptism, the little brother of a member came up to us and asked to be baptized. He's listened to the missionaries before and attended church, but he never wanted to get baptized. He had his interview the next day and is getting baptized on Saturday. That was a cool miracle for us. Then, the Sunday miracle. Usually Sundays stink, because all week you find people and they all say that they will come to church, and no one does, and when they don't come to church, they don't progress. So, this Sunday, we were just hoping the people who got baptized would show up, at the very best. They did, and then like 5 minutes into the meeting, 8 more people showed up. The family of the Condor family and two teenagers that we're teaching. It was such a surprise and we were super, super happy. One lady that came, Jenny, who hasn't progressed for like 2 months, and she showed up with her husband. She's always complaining about how she doesn't go to church with her, and this was his first time going with her to church, so I think that they'll progress now. The father of the whole Condor family told us, "I attend another church, but my daughter invited me to come today. This church is a lot better! You guys teach way better than my church!" Golden. So we ended the week very happy, and we're going to work very hard this week to help the people who came to church to continue to progress.

What else happened this week? Elder Oaks' article from February (maybe March, I don't remember) is bomb. Dude knows what he's talking about. He was talking about truth and tolerance, and I just loved his article. I love listening to him and reading his talks because he just makes so much sense with everything that he says. I read that article probably 3 times, just awesome. There was also a talk on integrity that I really liked, and I think that that's an article that our mission needs to read. People try to hide their mistakes too often, when admiting them would help so much more. There was a quote in the article by C.S. Lewis that went something like, "Whenever I start off a sum wrong, the sooner I admit my mistake and go back to fix it, the sooner I can move forward." I loved that quote. It's so true. Too often after making a mistake we try to keep going, and then we just mess up even more. If we just have the courage to admit to our mistakes, we can progress much faster and much happier. So, I must confess. Mom, I wasted a lot of money on Sun Chips at BYU. Wow, I feel so much better. See? It works.

I'm glad to hear that everything is going well for everyone in the United States. Everyone that is working, good work. Everyone who is studying, good studying... I was thinking back on where I was a year ago, and I think we had like a month of school left, and I already had my mission call. It's crazy how fast the time goes by, it honestly feels like just yesterday. I have nine months in the mission! That's a baby for Pete's sake!

I feel like I don't have a lot to write this week, we just focused on the baptisms pretty much the whole time. What else do I have to say.... last night we went to the Elder's Quorum President to have a family home evening with him and his wife. They're awesome, I want to live with them. We talked about the Atonement with them, and it was a great lesson. We watched a few videos about the life of Christ, and talked about what the Atonement means to us personally. I talked about hematidrosis, the medical condition where you sweat blood, and how it makes your skin very sensitive to even the lightest touch. After Christ bled from every pour, the things He went through the next day would have hurt badly normally, but would have hurt Him even more from the added sensitivity to His skin. As hard as I try, I'll never be able to comprehend the pain that He went through, but I can do all that I can to make His suffering worthwhile. I'm so glad that I have this time to be a missionary of Jesus Christ and to teach the things that He taught, and to help people to understand the Atonement better for themselves. I've seen this message bless so many lives, and I am very excited to continue doing it. It's made me so happy, and I've learned so many important things in my life. I've seen drunk people give up alcohol and become a new person, I've seen people build their faith from nothing, and I've seen poor people have all the happiness in the world, all because they have gotten to know their Savior better. Seeing that process in others has helped me personally to increase my faith and appreciation for Christ, especially with Easter coming up. I really feel so priviledged to have this awesome time in my life.

What else? I have found a new dog that I want to kill, more on that later, hopefully accompanied by a photo of me with the dog's head on a spear, to serve as a warning for all other dogs.

Dash is 8! How crazy is that. Probably to Mom it seems like a lot more time than that, but that time seems to have passed by super fast for me. How long will he live for? 12ish years or something like that?

I'm gonna finish the Book of Mormon in Spanish again this week, and probably the New Testament in about two. The Bible is a lot harder to read in Spanish than the Book of Mormon, but I'm making progress poco a poco. I really love speaking Spanish. I'm studying a lot of phrases and sayings in Spanish right now. I like using them, but Elder Paz tells me that I sound like a grandpa when I use them. A otro perro con este hueso.

Well, I'm gonna sign off for now. Sorry I didn't have any cool stories to tell. Hopefully I'll get robbed or mugged sometime soon to spice things up, right, Mom? Love you tons, we'll have some good stories to tell the next week. Dad, Mom, Erica, Andrew, Eliza, Nat, Alex, Jack, Heather, Trevor, Nikki, Amber, Dash, extended family, friends, and Jack Black, love you guys! Have an excellent week, and I'll try to do the same!

Con amor,

Elder Thomas

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Sorry this is late! Josh's title was "Downton Abbey--You're living it (Sorry, I can't think of one word to quote from that show--Tea?)

Cheerio all,

First off, how lucky are you guys in London right now? Not even fair, but then again, I get to live in a foreign, poor, third-world country for two years, and you only get a week in a super historic, super pretty place. So, really, who's the real loser?

This week was a little tough for us, we had some troubles come up with investigators, but that's how it goes sometimes. This guy, Esteban, from Cuba, is super awesome. He came to church in a suit and tie yesterday, and he's reading through the whole Book of Mormon, he's reading the manuals, watching the videos, and is super, super smart. He's a nuclear engineer, speaks Russian, Chinese, the whole nine yards. I wish every investigator could be like him. We have two, maybe four, people getting baptized this week, and we're pretty excited for that. The two who are getting baptized have been listening to the missionaries for years and years, one man for 15 years, and they're finally getting baptized. I'm not sure what was different this time around, just that it was their time to accept the Gospel. Their families are super, super, super happy, and the ward members didn't believe us at first when we said these people were getting baptized. So, I think a lot of people will show up to the baptism just to see if we're liars or not. Next week (16th), Esteban is getting baptized, too. We're really happy with the progress we've seen these people use, and are excited to see them one day in the temple with their families.

Someone asked me what "machetied" means. There's a verb we use, machetear, whenever we just destroy someone and chastize them for not progressing. We had a good machete this last week with the husband of a return missionary. The dude wasn't doing anything, and even his kids (not members) were doing what we left. What stinks is that he doesn't let his kids come to church, even though they want to. I have a few "machete discourses" in my quiver of lessons, and I pulled out the real intent machete. I love that one. I was just like, "Brother, nothing good will happen if you don't do things with the intention of acting. If you don't act, you are a terrible person and God won't give you his answer." Then, he said, "The Book of Mormon can't make me happy and I know that God made my marriage eternal without some temple." Oh, boy, game time. First off, we said, "How many times have we read the Book of Mormon and you said the verses were wonderful and speaking to you?" "About every time." "So, you lied there." Next, we spoke to his wife. "Is your marriage eternal?" "Nope." Scriptures about being sealed on earth to be sealed in heaven. The guy is silent, nothing more to say. I felt like pulling out the scene in the Joseph Smith movie where he rebukes the guards, but that would have been a little too much, I think. I finished with Elder Paz, bearing our testimony, and he basically said that he doesn't care about the truth and he's staying in his own church. His own daughter, 14, told him how important it is to have a prophet, and he still wouldn't listen. Some people, woof.

Also, someone asked about "Gringoville," which is just the place where everyone who works at the embassy lives. It is America... This Thursday, I'll be in that sector again, and Elder Nelson said that the Dowlings are gonna have us over for dinner that night. I was in that sector with Elder Nelson's companion this week, and we had another good, straight to the point lesson with a lady who is preventing her boyfriend/husband/butonlyboyfriend from being baptized, and she has a baptismal date now. I'm doing divisions at least once a week to help out the other sectors, because we have the goal of 20 baptisms for March, and I want to help out each sector however I can...

What else happened this week? I'm still a breakfast champ, and the Captain Crunch that I got only adds to the greatness. I learned that it's really not that hard or expensive here to eat healthy. The eggs are the most expensive thing, 30 eggs for $4, and everything else doesn't cost much, especially the avacado. Whenever I have an omelete, I always think about going to the Embassy Suites in Chicago every year and eating my fill with free breakfast, so breakfast makes me trunky. I make pancakes sometimes, too, just for you, Dad. The jacket you sent is great, and Elder Nelson said that the package he has has another jacket and like $15 of snacks. Way to go! Is it way cheaper/easier to send the stuff to the Dowlings?

Heather, my favorite ties are the wedding ties of the sisters. I have all three here, and they all get me compliments. Tonight, I will be sporting the Stephens family wedding tie, with a nice, jet-black suit. 

I think that's about it for this week, not much more that I can think of. Elder Paz is getting really good at Monopoly Deal, a little too good, and we still have great times together. He'll train after this change... Tonight we have a special meeting with President Ghent, and no one knows what it's about, but we lose some P-day and won't have any time to work today, so it's gotta be something big or important. Some people think that the zone is getting split, but I'm not so sure. But it'll be noteworthy. I'll let you know what it was next week.

Love you tons, Happy late birthday Nikki, love you, happy early birthday Eliza, I am real and am your uncle, and Heather, congrats. Live it up, have fun in the happenin' places, from Iowa (woo!) to London, and Bob´s your uncle!

Con amor,

Elder Thomas