Monday, August 19, 2013

"Have you ever been in love with a nun?" Nacho Libre

Hey all,

So, just before I forget, next Monday, I may be going to Quito. And the next one. So, if I don't have tons of time to write, don't shoot me. It looks like I'll probably be training a new missionary out here, and I'll have to go pick up my "kid" in Quito. I hope I get another Elder Paz, that would be sweet!

This week was great work wise. I don't get along super well with the two Elders. We're not enemies, but we don't get along well either. But, we work hard, so that's all that really matters. We taught a ton of lessons. Here, it's really easy to find people to teach, it's just impossible to get them to progress. In Quito, usually if you can find someone, they progress pretty well, it's fun to see the difference in different sectors. I would imagine that in the States, when you find someone to teach, you are just so happy that you have to go to Taco Bell and get a chalupa. Oh man, I miss Taco Bell now. They don't like exercising, so I have to drag them to a place near the house where they have a track, and they nap while I run. Classic Latinos. I like living with them, though. It's fun to see the different habits people have from different cultures. I've been nailing the oatmeal lately. Nice little avenita, canela, azucar moreno, y lechecito, y boom baby! Nailed it. I've left the "Trix" diet behind for now, opting for the "oatmeal and omelet" diet, also known as the "Why did I eat so much Trix?" diet. But, I did buy a box of Trix today because they come with Justice League/Batman notebooks, so obviously I bought it.

So, miracle time. Since I've got here (since April), we have been praying, fasting, and working so hard to have more priesthood in the branch. In my time here, we've helping a lot of people come in to the Church, which is a great blessing for all involved. But, few of them are priesthood holders. We work and work and work and work, and have struggled a lot to find good men. We've prayed, and we've contacted and taught so many people, and nothing. A big problem is the work schedule of those who work for the oil companies, another problem is that the guys are just bums here. But, we kept working. Elder Burr and I especially worked so hard, and of all the things we found, priesthood wasn't on the list. We did find an opposum though, if that counts for anything. So, in this past week, from Sunday the 11th to Sunday the 18th, three men came up to talk to us, and said that they are members of the Church. Guy 1: Member for ten years. Holds the priesthood. Married. Three cute little kids. From Columbia. Awesome. Guy 2: Coming here from near Guayaquil. Newly married couple with goals to go to the temple soon. Ex-executive secretary of his old branch. Pilas and super cool. Guy 3: From Quito. Moving here this month, this month he's getting the priesthood. Getting sealed to his girlfriend in the coming months, who will live here with him after their sealing. Boom, baby. Not only three guys, three FAMILIES. What is up?? We're super excited for that, an awesome miracle. I always assumed that we would have to first find a good guy to teach, and bring him to the Church. Then, we'd have to train him little by little for six months to have the priesthood, get to know how the Church runs, etc. I thought that it'd be a long process. The Lord saw our work and our faith, and basically said, "Yeah, you could do that...but this would probably be a lot easier. Here, tengan." Pretty cool, huh? Obviously, we still need to find new guys to teach and to help, but it will be a lot less dependent on us with these three future leaders in the branch. It'll be a great step towards not having missionaries as the leaders.

All I've done in personal study is read the Book of Mormon this week, and I read pretty much all of Alma. Moroni was the man. I feel bad for not having read too many Elder Maxwell talks, but I'll catch up soon. While reading, I was reminded of the importance of preparation and constant work. There are several times where it talks about Moroni winning a battle or a city, and then he just keeps on preparing and strengthening his cities and armies. It would be easy to say, "Hey, cool, we won. Let's take a break quick then we'll get back to work!" but, he knew that they always had to be prepared to fight and defend. He understood that importance of making the weak things strong, and the strong things stronger. He probably could have been Batman, he basically was. He was super good at strenthening cities, too, with many levels of defense. Good example of how our testimonies should be built, with many layers. It is also how ogres are, according to Shrek. Also, Moroni teaches us about looking for times when intelligence can be a lot better than brute force. There were a few times when they probably could have fought and won, but a lot of people would have died. So, he just thinks of something cool and easier and just does it. In one of the last battles, the city is well fortified, they have tons of troops on both sides. They probably could have gone up and fought and won, but Moroni was smart. He climbed up the wall, found where they could climb over without being noticed, entered the city, and surprised them in the morning. Easy victory, few deaths. Nice, Moroni. It's the same with Helaman and his army, sometimes they had to fight, but a lot of times being smart was better. So, weak nerds of the world, we need you, and you can be useful! I love the book of Alma, this time through I really focused on the lessons that could be learned from the battles. Yay, war!

The branch is doing well, more than half of the members are on vacation, so nothing really happened this week. We're thinking of hiring a monkey to be the greeter in sacrament meeting.

It is really important to be happy.

I really miss Elder Burr. He was the best companion ever, we got along so well. And now he just left me behind. I miss the big fella. Hopefully sometime you can meet up with him in Utah and offer him gold, frankencinse and myrrh, as a token of his awesomeness. I wish he was still here with me, we were so fun together. But, I know that my future companions will be great, as well. One time, we tried to make coconut juice with pineapple and it was really nasty.

Nikki is going to BYU this next week. I want it publicly announced and known that if one boy utters so much as one syllable to my sister, I'll hunt you down and gut you like a fish! Stay away from her.

Dash, stay strong, buddy. Here, when dogs get sick, they don't give them a surgery, they just feed them chicken bones and garbage and they die, then they burn them. So I think you got the better end of the deal.

I talked to Dad about this, but I've had a big craving for root beer barrels lately. How good are they? Super good.

This is the time of year when a lot of the fun ends and school starts. I miss studying, to be honest. But, when you all go back to school and regular schedules, remember to read and pray every day, and to go to the temple a lot. And remember to write me...

I think that's about all that I can remember from my week, pretty tranquilo. I've been really tired. I love ice cream sandwiches. You guys rock, stay awesome. And we'll talk in a week!


Elder Thomas

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

"Learn your rules, you've got to learn your rules. If you don't, you'll be eaten in your sleep!" Dwight Schrute

Hey all,

How goes it? Well, Elder Burr is gone. I am pretty sad about that. He was awesome. You were asking a bit how to get in touch with him to talk with him a bit. The thing about Elder Burr is, you don't find him...he finds you. That's just a cooler way to say that I gave him your number and that he'll be in touch with you guys in the coming week. His name is Jeremiah, just so you know who it is when he calls. I told him to meet up with at least Nat and Heather in Provo and that Nat can get him tickets to her show so he can take a date and so that you can all talk about Lago Agrio. I'll miss that guy a lot, he is awesome and is a stud. For the next two weeks, I'll be in a trio with the two other Elders here, Elder Uc and Elder Molina, so there's that trio fun for you. They're waiting to do changes for two weeks just to get everyone on the same changes-page, and from then on it'll be changes every six weeks again.

I don't think that I've sent you pictures for a while, so sorry about that, I'll try to send some today, but the internet is slow and my patience gets thin with two hours to write everyone in the world. We had two baptisms this week, Carlos and Dolores. Dolores is this sweet old lady who can't read or write, and Carlos is her 15 year old son. He's going to serve a mission. He went on the temple trip without even being baptized, just to see the temple. He came back so excited to keep going in the Church, and he was baptized a week later. It was a great way for Elder Burr to finish his mission, his last weekend with an awesome baptismal service. It had been raining all morning, so the river was pretty flooded and a little dirty, but the parasites received were worth the pain. Little Carlos will get the priesthood on Sunday, adn he'll be the branches only teacher, woo! We've been praying for priesthood, and we're happy to have young men worthy to hold it. Carlos will be a great strength to the branch when he comes back as a return missionary in 5 years. It was a great service. Here, there aren't many buses. We take taxis everywhere, which can get a little expensive (a whopping $1.25 to take you anywhere in the city), but to the river and back it's about $10. We didn't want to have to call for a taxi to come out and get us, so we invited the taxi drivers to watch the baptism, and they said it was a cool experience for them to see what a baptisms is like. And then they charged us $10. Have a heart, guys.

The leader's council was great. We focused a ton on flirting, a ton. I guess it's a big concern everywhere with all of the sisters coming out on missions. They have younger, less mature guys coming right out of high school, where all they thought about were girls, and younger, less mature girls who were looking for a husband at college, and then you tell them that they can't flirt while they are missionaries. So yeah, that could lead to a lot of problems. So we focused a lot on how we should help other missionaries when we see them coqueteando. I just decided to pretend like every missionary I see is Nikki, and every person they are talking to is a twerpy little punk kid at door 6. I'll just interrupt whatever conversation they are having and awkwardly take them to a different place. Thanks for giving me some practive, Nikki. We did really well in the Orient this last month, we're really happy with the miracles we've been seeing here. We talked in the council about how our success last month really came from focusing on the temple, the goal of our mission. We knew that the first weekend in August we had a temple trip planned, and we knew that every members who could attend would come out with a stronger testimony. So, that was what we focused on--getting everyone who could possibly go to the temple to go to the temple, which is the attitude we should have with all of our investigators. About 90% of the people baptized in July went to the temple in August. It was a great thing for us to see, and that trip has kept everyone super excited to keep progressing in the Church. Yay, temples.

On Wednesday, I renewed my visa, and, to my surprise, all the guys from my group were there! It was super fun to be together again, we haven't seen each other since I went to Lago in April. And, it's official. I am the only person from my whole group in the new mission. The other Elders will get home two weeks before me, and they told me that their mission in those two weeks will be to make me trunky. I wish I could have stayed with at least a couple of them, but that's how it goes! After getting our visas done, we went for a last hurrah to KFC to have a lunch together. It was really fun, then we had the 8 hour bus ride back to Lago Agrio. One of the movies they played on the way home was so dumb, a guy killed another guy with a headbut while he was tied up and dying to a chair. That's probably one of those "only seen in a bus on its way to the jungle in Ecuador" kind of movie. Keep trying, guys, you'll get there.

What else happened in this last week? We found a few potential priesthood holders this week (finally), and one of them came to church! He's a 25ish year old guy who really wants to be more spiritual in his life. He has a wife and a little baby, they're married! We don't know his wife yet, she's finishing up school in her university and then she'll be back here. So, that could be a happy little future branch president family. He has a goal to be baptized at the end of the month, and we're going to work really hard with him to see great progress and quick growth with him. That'll be a little funny for him, I think. One week, he'll have his baptismal interview. The next week, interview to get the priesthood. The next week, "Hey, buddy, will you be the branch president? Thanks, we'll see you later! Good luck!" But if it does work out with him, I will train him up the wazoo so that he can learn what he would need to do as a leader, hoping that he could be one in the coming months. I will probably be here 14 more weeks (the two in the trio and two changes after), which should be a lot of great time to train all of the leaders here in the branch.

Oh! While we were in Quito, we got in around 6 on Monday and got some dinner in a mall there. And, I saw one of my converts! Remember little Sneider from Guamaní? When I baptized him, he was 11 and I knew that in June he turned twelve. I talked with him for a minute, he now has the priesthood, goes to church every Sunday, and went to the temple. I baptized his mom, she's active, too, top it all off....their atheist brother got baptized! Yay! But that was super cool for me to see Sneider and to know that he is still receiving the blessings of the Gospel. That little stud will be a great missionary. I also ran into another great family from Guamaní, he was a counselor in the bishopric, and I loved being with their family. They say that they missed playing Spot-It with me on Sundays, I miss that too. I gave them the game before I left, and they still play it faithfully. We should have them over for family night sometime in Minnesota. It is great to know that what you did a little while back is still blessing the lives of people today. Way to go, restored Gospel.

I haven't had time to study much these past two weeks with all the things that we have to do. I haven't read a Neal talk in two weeks! Sorry, Neil. So, no mind-blowing today with things that I studied in the last two weeks, sorry. (This last week, I didn't have a single hour of personal study, boo.) So, this week, I'll study hard and I hope to be able to share some of the cool things I learned with you next week. I'm trying to finish the Book of Mormon by the end of the month, so hopefully I can do that.

Also, I have no idea what is happening in your lives right now. Well, yeah I do, but some things I don't know. I know that Nikki is going to BYU in 2015, Amber is picking up this new thing called "soccer," someone went to some town that sounded like Navajo, and that Natalie is on SNL. But seriously, Nat, is your show popular? And what else I happening? Trevor, have you built my suit yet? Andrew, did you solve cancer? Alex, have you figured out how to build floating homes? I'll just assume that the answer is "yes" to almost all of those questions. And did I hear something about buying me a Mustang?

Anyways, that's probably enough for this week. Monday to Wednesday, Quito. Thursday to Friday, working. Saturday, baptisms. Sunday, church, bye bye Burr, and yeah, here we are today. You guys rock, keep up the good work, and hey, give a mouse a cookie. And some milk. Oh man, cookies and milk, how rico is that? Ya mísmo.

Love you guys tons! Keep going! If you are a younger sister, stop talking to boys or I'll hunt you down and gut you like a fish!


Elder Thomas

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

"When Oscar was five, he went to Mexico for his great aunt's funeral. What does that mean to a law officer like myself? A potential drug mule." Dwight Schrute

So Josh was busy on Monday and wasn't able to write much at all, but he was given time yesterday to write. He is the new Branch President in his area now that his companion, who was the previous President, is leaving.

Hey all,

They gave us some time to write today, but I'm still going to be brief. I won't talk about the leader's council stuff until next week just to save time, but it was a great meeting today.

I got that package from you guys, haven't opened it yet.

Tomorrow I have to get up super early to go get my new visa for the next year. Woo!

I didn't get sick last week.

Elder Burr and I have been working really hard, we are really happy. He leaves me on Sunday, and I'm really really sad to see him go. I will probably be in a trio for two weeks waiting for my new companion. The changes are kind of weird with the new mission, in two weeks we have the real changes and then from then on we'll have them every six weeks. (Elder Burr is leaving in week 4 of this change). So, I hate being in trios. So, these next two weeks will be interesting.

The branch went to the temple! We thought it would be so great for the branch to go together, that in the temple they could finally settle their differences and grow closer together as a branch. It would be perfectly reasonable to think that...what better place than the temple to grow closer together? Well, that plan failed, and we have a whole new set of fresh problems. Elder Burr didn't come to the council today since this is his last week to work, so he was going to try to fix some things...I hope that he could. We have our work cut out for us.

Elder Burr told me that he found the new branch president today. Well, the future one. It is some guy from Italy who is a member but has been inactive for a while and had no idea that the Church was in Lago. I guess he wants to be active again with...wait for it...his family! I'll hopefully meet him on Thursday. We get back late tomorrow. So, if this guy is for real, I will be doing all I can to prepare him to be the future branch president. I sure hope this guy is golden, if what Elder Burr says is true, he should be. So, that's exciting. We need priesthood so badly.

We contact tons still, find lots of people, and are still struggling to find good men. I think our only option is to make good men, not to just try and find them. I guess that's the whole purpose of the Gospel, to make men be better. But, it is hard to convice the guys that they can't drink, have to get married to the woman they live with, have to be faithful to her, and can't work on Sundays. So...yeah...we'll see what we can do. One idea that Elder Burr and I had was to have a "being better men" seminar thing, kind of like Elder Christofferson's talk last November about manning up. But, we wouldn't focus on inviting the men to it, we would tell their wives about it. If the wives want better husbands, they'll send them to it, and we can find a lot of guys that way. There are some guys here that have truly great potential, they're just always drunk and don't really realize it yet. Bless their hearts.

I'm really going to miss Elder Burr. I've loved my time with him and I don't want him to leave, but that's how it goes sometimes. I'm gonna exchange information with him, he wants to meet up with whoever is in Utah to meet you guys and talk about Lago. He's a stud, one of the best guys I know. I really do wish he could stay here with me. We were a really good companionship together. But, I'm sure that whoever will be my next companion will be awesome, as well.

I'm gonna stop writing, I'll write you guys on Monday some more. I love you tons, that video of Eliza was really cute!