Guess who has to go back to Quito next week? Woo! Not. I hate that STUPID BUS. So, yeah, we'll see what happens. I'll get on Monday morning quick to print off your letters, and Monday night or Tuesday night I'll write you guys something quick. Three of the five weeks in September, I'll have to travel to Quito. Woof.
I have a new companion! I'm in a trio for two weeks. I've talked to you guys a few times about Elder Murphy, he's huge. He was in Coca, the other city in our zone. He was the other Zone Leader, but he wasn't my companion (they had us split up for the distance between the sectors). Friday, I got a call from President Richardson and he told me that Elder Murphy was going to come to Lago Agrio to be my companion. He said that I had two weeks to train him how to be branch president. The change ends in two weeks. (The Monday after Conference). So, with minimal intelligence, I can predict that I will not be here in two weeks, which really stinks. We're only confused with why they did it so suddenly, the change. I would think that they would have given me a whole change to teach Elder Murphy the ropes, the sector,etc, but now only two weeks. It seems like it was a last minute decision and that I am needed somewhere else. I really don't want to leave. To be honest, I want to spend at least the rest of the year here, maybe the rest of my mission. But, the Lord knows better, so we'll see what happens with the changes in two weeks. I'm not going to tell anyone that I'm leaving. They're going to be mad when I go, but it'd be really hard for me to say goodbye. I've going through a lot with the people here, 6 months of leading them helped us to develop good relationships. Especially with one family that Elder Burr and I taught, it's going to be really hard to leave them. I'll leave notes behind or something like that for them. Hopefully I'll be able to see them again someday in the future. So, my time here in Lago is coming to a (reluctant) close. It's like when you leave Primary. At first, you're excited, then you realize how nice it was to have cookies given to you every week and get a half hour to sing every Sunday.
We've had two weeks in a row of about 50 people coming to church, which is awesome! We're excited about that. Our goal by the end of the year is 80 people attending each year, and 110 by the end of the next year. The branch is growing very quickly, and everyone is very excited about the missionary work here, which is fun for everyone. Tons of youth attend seminary, which is great. A lot of people came to the chapel cleaning on Saturday, too, which is great. I've discovered that a good sign of conversion is if you are willing to clean the chapel. When I get home, I'm gonna volunteer every week because I know what a pain it is to not have anyone come. But, the strongest members of the branch always come to clean, so it is a good indicator of conversion. Every week we have a few people more, and it takes less and less time to clean. Yay, progress!
I haven't been able to read much Neal lately, kind of a bummer. It seems like the more I want to study the Gospel, the less time I have to do it. We pretty much always have something to do with our day, which is a great blessing, but some days we come home exhausted. There are so many things for us to do between contacting, teaching, filling out informants, visiting members, training members, visiting less actives, lots to do. A lot of the stuff in the past has been the job of the bishop in the ward, but here we have to do it all. It's great to be busy though, better than having nothing to do. I sleep like a rock. Elder Murphy said that last night I fell asleep in 2 minutes and woke up and I hadn't changed body position. Gotta love it. There is a big sports complex right by our house, which is great. It's like Zumbro but bigger and it has a track. Like Soldier's Field would be better said. We go there on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays to run on the track, and I am still doing Ab Ripper on Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday. I've made it a big goal to keep exercising my whole mission, and it has been a big blessing. Shaved my 2 mile time down, 14:00, oh yeah. Not bad for a missionary. I still miss basketball a ton, I would imagine that I am bad at it by now. My knees still bug me, but I'm used to it, plus I hear that in the new Batman he has knee problems, so it'll be a good help for me on my quest to be Batman.
I don't think that I've mentioned to you guys that we're reading the Book of Mormon in three months as a mission. We started three weeks ago, and I've forgotten to mention it. We are marking every reference to Jesus Christ in red, and in blue we are marking every scripture about obedience and/or a topic of our choice. It has been an awesome experience so far. They gave us all a new copy, a cheap paperback on, to mark up, and my scriptures are covered in red and blue, it's awesome. I never realized just how much the Book of Mormon makes reference to the Savior until I did this. So often, He is either talking or people are talking about Him. Plus, it's been helping me in everything that I read. I kind of habitually spot out any reference to Christ in anything I read, and my mind kind of mentally highlights it in red. Now, everything I read seems to be a lot more centered on Jesus Christ. No matter what the topic is that I'm studying, His name jumps out a lot more naturally to me now. Plus, it is interesting to note all of the different titles He is given. Lots of names for a really important person. It got me thinking about cool titles that I could have, too. Elder Thomas, Burner of Throat. Elder Thomas, Beat Zelda. Elder Thomas, Likes Sunchips. Elder Thomas, Smelly. They have a nice ring to them, right? But really, it's a great experience for me in my studies to focus more on the Book of Mormon and my testimony of it, my relationship with my Savior, and the eternal need to be more obedient. The topic of my choice that I am marking is wisdom/knowledge. Usually the biggest "bad guys" in the Book of Mormon are described as being wise according to men, and not according to God. A wise man that obeys God has so much more power to do good than a man with wisdom and now higher power guiding him. I love the Book of Mormon, it's almost like it's true or something. Weird...
It is my birthday this week. I will open up the Captain Crunch and zebra cakes and eat them with my companions, and open up the card. I already saw the gift, flipping sweet Batman tank, how awesome is that. But, I put it back in the bag and I'll pretend to be surprised. Root beer barrells are awesome, Cheez-its were gone in minutes. I haven't opened up the bigger card yet, so I'll do that on Friday. I still have the card from last year because it is really cool and has the Avengers. Big hit with everyone that I've shown. It's weird that I'm almost 21, that sounds so mature. But, if maturity is measured by desires to watch Pride and Predjudice, I have a very long way to go. If, however, it can be measured by self control while in the candy aisle in the grocery store, I'm just about there. Yay, birthdays! I think I need to buy a duffle/carry on bag, so I may go hunting for that when I'm in Quito next week. I just mooch off Elder Murphy and we share a bag when we go to Quito, but it would be nice to have my own. I'll look for one and may get it as a present. If maturity can be measure by whether you ask for toys or necessities for presents, I am really mature now. I would consider an awesome present nice socks rather than a Transformer, although a Transformer would be awesome. And Trevor, where the heck is my Iron Man suit?
I don't want to go to Quito. I still hate rice so much.
I feel like I'm forgetting something, and I probably won't remember it. It probably had something to do with Jell-O or dead dogs or something. I'll just write a little bit more, keep it short and sweet this week so I can write a few personal notes as well.
Read Alma 5. I read it today, but I don't have enough time to write what I want to about it. It's a really great, kick-you-in-your-pants kind of scripture. You read it and start out thinking, "Dumb de dumb de dumb! I'm so darn righteous, how great am I? I go to church every Sunday, pay my tithing, I even talked to someone about the Church!" And by the time you finish it, you are thinking more, "Well, I'm a failure. Better start repenting and getting better at living the Gospel. My bad, Alma, don't be hatin'" and then you get better at living the Gospel. It's a good one to read every month or so just to keep us getting better instead of planing out for awhile. Constant progress is the goal in life, sí o qué?
Love you guys tons, we'll talk whenever I get some time next week. If you wish to write me epistles, I do have an 8 hour bus ride, even longer if we have to go by horseback.
Keep living the Gospel and going to the temple!