Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Hey all,

We had our zone conference today, it was pretty great. Sister Richardson made lemon bars, so what more can I say?

It's been two weeks! Are you guys still alive? I feel like I have a lot that I wanted to tell you guys, but I don't remember the last two weeks super well. If I don't write every Monday, I forget a lot of things because the days just blend together...

First off, I have some big news. Here, there is a good ice cream company called Pinguino. (The "u" should have two dots over it, but I don't know how to write that letter on the keyboard.) They have a special promotion right now that one some of the popsicle sticks, it says, "vale otro Pinguino," and you get the same ice cream you bought for free. It's just one of those dumb tricks to get people to buy more than usual, expecting to win a free one. When they don't win, they buy another, etc., thinking that on the next one they'll win. They fall for the trap, and end up paying about $10 for a free ice cream that's worth $0.75. Those suckers, they just end up losing money that they could have had for a little victory. I, as one of those suckers, have to tell you that it felt really good to win. I enjoyed my free ice cream, and Pinguino enjoyed my money. My next goal is to win a free one, and with the free one, win another free one. I call it the "Inception win."
 I'm pretty nerdy, so I try to attach the word "Inception" to a lot of things. It just means that you do one thing twice, basically. In the movie, they have a dream within a dream (within a dream within a dream). So, for example, an "Inception win" is a win within a win. "Inception divisions" is doing divisions within divisions. An "Inception burrito" would be a burrito within a burrito. I may have to try that one...
We're really excited in the branch, because within two weeks, they won't need the Elders for the Sacrament. It's a baby step to better things, so we're really excited. When I got here in April, there was 1 active deacon. Within two weeks, with the baptisms we'll have, we'll have 4 deacons, 1 teacher and 1 priest, just among the young men, then we have the adult converts who are priests and a few that hold the higher priesthood. So, that's a great step for the branch.
Two weeks ago, we had a young woman get baptized, Sharon. Her father passed away five years ago, and her step dad is a very inactive member. We contacted into them, and he told us that he wanted to come back and Sharon wanted to grow closer to the Lord because she had been mad at Him for awhile. She had always prayed for her dad to get better, and he never did. We taught her all the lessons, and the message of temples really caught her attention and was the reason for her conversion. She told us many times something along the lines of "If these are the things that I need to do to see my dad again, I'll do every one of them." The young women in the branch were really friendly to her, too, and they all came to her baptism. Hopefully we can help her step dad repent, get married, and get active, and he can be a great help to the branch, as well.
This last weeked, a young man named Pablo got baptized. Pablo's mom and brother were the last baptisms that Elder Burr and I had together. The older brother that got baptized a few weeks ago, Carlos, is pilas. He already knows the First Vision and works with us almost every day. He is 15 and when he teaches people he introduces himself, "Hi, I'm Carlos, I've been a member for a month, and in three short years I'll be a missionary like them." He's got a killer testimony, and I love working with him. We were teaching his brother Pablo when we first met them, but Pablo left to live on his dad's farm. We thought we'd never see him again, but after Carlos got baptized, he told Pablo that he had to come back and be baptized and active in the Church. So, all thanks to Carlos, Pablo was able to progress. Carlos is our teacher and Pablo is a deacon, so they both help with the Sacrament together. Their mom is pilas too. It's a great little family, they'll help the branch out a ton. This week, President Richardson's counselor is coming out to do interviews, we want a member leading as soon as possible, so hopefully we can get that going soon.
It's cool to see the branch progressing little by little. One of the keys has been branch council. The Area Presidency here has given the instruction that every ward should be having ward council every week. When President Richardson told us that, he said that there was a ward in Guayaquil with something like 500 inactive people, maybe more, I don't remember. The bishop started having ward council every week, focusing on the inactive members and the investigators of the missionaries. In a year or so, they had to divide the ward, and two years later, they divided the ward again. Tons of those inactives came back from having ward council to plan for them every week. So, now they want everyone to do it. We started it with Elder Burr, and I'm still keeping it up. Everyone is so much more excited here about the work. This last Sunday was awesome. Awesome. We were talking about the names of so many people, investigators and inactives, and with the missionaries and the leaders, we were planning all of the visits that we were going to do. It was such a fun spirit in the room, everyone left happy. We took a poll this last month of all the wards where they have ward council every week and those who don't. The missionaries got the annual baptismal goals of their ward and the baptisms that they've had up until now, and then wrote if they had ward council every week. Of every ward, maybe 20% had ward council every week, and all of them were going to reach their yearly goal. For example, here in Lago the goal for the year is 25, we have ward council every week, and we had 23 up until now, so by the end of the month, we'll reach our goal. Every ward was like that, very close to their goal, and the wards that didn't have it every week, maybe once a month, were very far from the goal. Plus, reactivation efforts are way more effective if we are able to have weekly reports on the inactive people that we are visiting. I love this instruction from the Area, and I know that as we continue to do so, we'll see great results. Plus, it has made the members get way more involved in the missionary work, because they go more from monthly viewers of our works to weekly participants in our visits. Pretty cool.
There is a package waiting for me in the offices, I'll grab it tomorrow before going back to Lago. I'm going to be 21, how weird is that?
There is probably more that I was going to write, but I'll write you guys more on Monday. I'll finally have a P-day! Two weeks without one. So I will be sure to write you both a fat and a phat letter on Monday, but at least I was able to write some of the things that have been going on. I watched a dog die the other day, it was pretty sad.
Fill me in on everything, let me know how life is going. How's Dash? Thanks for taking care of him for me!

Con amor,

Elder Thomas

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