Monday, July 29, 2013

"I did not hit you, I lightly slapped you." "You hit me."

Hey all,

Before I forget, I probably won't be able to write you next Monday because we need to travel to Quito for the leaders' council. Maybe I'll get permission to write another day, or I'll just wait to write in two weeks. But, when I don't write next week, don't freak out and think that I died. Although it could be possible that I do die.

This week was pretty good! We worked really hard and feel really great about how things are going in Lago. There is still a lot of work to be done with investigators and with the branch members, but progress is being made. It's like they say, "You can't make Jell-O in a matter of hours!" So, living by that motto, we know that great things are to come. We contact a lot here, it seems to be the best way to find people. Elder Burr has taught me a ton on how to contact well. He has the gift of establishing confidence with people quickly, something that I've tried to have as well as I learn from his example. It's been so great to be with him. I've learned tons and feel like I'm such a better missionary now thanks to him. He goes home in two weeks, I'm gonna miss that guy. We'll keep working hard until the end. That's another thing that we've learned together, something that the jungle teaches you. You just keep working, whether things are going as you want them to go or if they are not. You just keep on keeping on, and things will get where they should be. Optimism! Woo!

I read four talks by Elder Maxwell this week. What's up. I read his last couple talks as a member of the presidency of the Seventy, and his first two as an Apostle. The first talk was about the importance of the balance between the responsibilities of men and of women in the plan of God. I like how he starts off. Basically he says that our responsibilities as men and women were determined a long time ago in some other place. There is no one on earth right now who was in charge of our responsabilities, we just have to keep the ones that we have been given. So, in more modern words, "You go girls!"

The other talk I read was about how the Church has many members from many walks of life and that each member is equally important. He also talks about the different cultures, and how the Church enthusiastically supports the traditions of other cultures as long as they are good. In the world, people face a lot of rejection; in the Church, they should find none. A lot of times, those who believe are chastened by the world. He gives the example of imagining how Noah would be perceived in the world today on the 6 o'clock news if they did a daily report on him. I like this quote about how important new members are. He says, "They have been called to his vineyard not just to admire but to perspire--not to "ooh" and "aah" but to "hoe and saw." Let us make them friends--not celebrities;colleagues--not competitors." I like that. Good members will help new members to be good members. Man, do we need that here in the branch! "Whether old-timers, returnees, or recruits, we must all finally make that "mighty change" in our hearts, and this requires more than a slight change in our schedules." So, let's do better about accepting and helping new people in the Church.

Neal's first talk as an Apostle is killer. It's called, "O, Divine Redeemer," and he basically fulfills his calling just through this talk alone--he difinitely stands as a strong witness of Christ. The way he starts his talk is awesome. He just got called and sustained to the office of Apostle, and this is what he says, "I publicly express my deep gratitude...for my call to the Twelve--among whom I shall be the least, long after being the last so ordained." Nice, nailed it, Neal. I love that guy. This is the talk where he has this quote (one that you've sent a few times to me, that I love) "I testify that He is utterly incomparable in what He is, what He knows, what He has accomplished, and what He has experienced. Yet, movingly, He calls us His friends." It really is amazing all of the things that Christ has done for us, and we'll never be able to understand or thank Him enough. But, what we do know is that He loves us, and that He did it all because we are His friends. Neal says, "Indeed, we cannot teach (Christ) anything! But we can listen to Him. We can love Him, we can honor Him, we can worship Him! We can keep His commandments, and we can feast upon His scriptures! Yes, we who are so forgetful and even rebellious are nover forgotten by Him! We are His "work," and His, "glory," and He is never distracted!" Christ loves us, He did a lot for us, and asks for just a few things from us. What an unfair, but miraculous deal He made with us. We'd be pretty dumb not to take it.

I read one more, but forgot it at home, my bad. Right now, I have the new Tabernacle Choir page up, and was listening to music video things, and Christmas ones came up. I love Christmastime. Best time of the year!

The branch is doing well. We had 50 people at church on Sunday, about 10 were investigators. We're getting there. When I got here in April, I think something like 25 people were coming to Church. There is always so much to do here, and it is hard to remember to have patience with everything sometimes. The branch has a temple trip this week, and we really wish that we could go with them this week, but oh, well. There should be about 30 people going to do baptisms, which is great. A few non-members are going too, so we hope that they have a good chance to feel the Spirit of the temple. President Richardson told us that something like 85% of people who go to the temple within 6 months of their baptism are still active in the Church 2 years later, and pretty much everyone who has been baptized in the past 6 months in going on the trip, which should be really great for the branch. Elder Burr leaves soon, and we don't know what will happen leadership wise in the branch. It's been so great for the branch to have him here, we'll have to really help whoever it is keep the momentum going in the branch.

We still really struggle to find good men. Why are there no good men here? Just kidding, there are, but they are really good at hide and go seek. We are thinking of training monkies to find men and repeatedly hit them on the head until they come to church and give up drinking. As soon as we catch the monkies, we'll start phase 2 on Project Monk-Converted. Monk family members are also invited to join.

I was really sick on Friday/Saturday, not sure what happened. Thursday was oddly cold here, like I wanted a sweater cold. It was weird, then Friday I woke up with a bad fever and Saturday was even worse. I still worked though, I want Elder Burr to work hard every day before he leaves and to find lots of people before going home. I thought for sure that since I was sacrificing and working while dying inside, the Lord would bless us big time. Well, every appointment fell, but that is okay. I guess the Lord just wanted to teach me a good lesson on diligence. This week will be a great week. I've gone back a little on the Trix diet, because we ate it all and haven't bought any more. Now we're on the "scrambled egg" diet.

I think that's about all that happened this week in my life. I am forgetting something. And not really able to remember it. You guys all look great and it looks like you had a great time together this last week...

I love you guys so much. The babies are really cute. Thanks for your love and support. Keep working hard in whatever you're doing, go to the temple a lot, and send me things!

Con amor,

Elder Thomas

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