Wednesday, October 30, 2013

"I have great news! As of today, Schrute Farms is completely wireless. As soon as I find out where Moze hid the wires, we'll get that back online." Dwight Schrute

Hey all,

Well, colada morada is still really good. The official holiday where they drink tons of it is this Friday and Saturday, but I leave tomorrow. Some people already are making some, so I am losing a whole lot of money.

We had the consejo de lĂ­deres today, it went well. Rumor has it that I have a package in the offices, hopefully my shoes came so I can stop walking barefoot all day. But, we learned a lot in the council, and I left feeling ready to work. We had a really good month in September, and a terrible month in October. It was mostly because missionaries are really stupid sometimes and aren't obedient and that leads to more problems. So, yeah. We talked about things that we need to do better to keep an eye on the missionaries and help them to be better workers. They asked some stupid missionaries to train on that, Elder Thomas and his companion Elder Black. A couple of losers. I hope that you never have to meet them. We talked for a really long time about it, because it just keeps on being a big problem. I don't know what it is about Ecuador, but lots of missionaries go home or just get into trouble. It happened last year in the other mission, it's happening again this year. Obedience isn't that hard, you just have to choose to do it. Come on, team mission. Step up. So, we set goals to do surprise visits to the houses of the missionaries in the morning to make sure that they're awake, we are going to do a lot more divisions, lots of new things that we need to do to, unfortunately, become more like babysitters. Elder Black and I did what I feel like was a good training, hopefully people liked it and will do what we said.

Names of people here are really funny, the highlight being a guy named Fricson. I giggle every time I hear it, and in my agenda, I write his name down as Freakshow. There are some really crazy names here, and when we ask people what it means or where it came from, they usually just say, "No clue! It just sounded cool!" There is a neighborhood called tripa de pollo (chicken guts), where I live is called santas vainas (more or less the equivalent of how we use "holy cow."), super funny. I just find a lot of things to laugh about here. The market is still my favorite part. This week I saw a little kid drop a chip in what was some kind of fluid seeping out of some kind of fish, picked it right up and ate it. Gotta love it, he'll have a killer immune system one day, if he doesn't die first. Natural selection!

I don't have too much to write about concerning the work yet, we have few investigators right now because we have a lot to clean up here. We need to get the missionaries obedient first if we want to see any kind of success. We are doing a good work with the less actives. Elder Black is teaching me a lot about how to do that. We visited around 10 less actives and they all came to church, and from one of them we got a reference, and he's got a baptismal date, which is awesome. Now, if they can just not drink anymore, we're all set. The leaders before didn't like the missionaries that much because they were wicked and didn't work, but after church, one of the councilors came up and thanked us for the work that we were doing. So, little by little, we're seeing the changes that we want. We just need to be patient and keep doing what we're doing, and soon we'll have a successful, obedient zone. Or it could backfire and we could all go home for being disobedient. Fingers crossed!

New Scripture Mastery Scriptures, eh? I printed them off. It'll be a hard work for me to forget the 100 old ones that I never memorized and memorize the new ones. I wish I would have been better about seminary, I wasn't bad, but I could have been better. I want to memorize the new list before I go home. I know that not all of them are new, but I know maybe 10 of them. Side note, if you're preparing for a mission, don't go with the scripture mastery, go with the scriptures in Preach My Gospel. A lot are the same, but the ones you'll really use in the mission are the ones that are found in Preach My Gospel. If you guys want to do the same, memorize all 100 by June, we could work together to do it. Game on.

I finished the Book of Mormon again, super true. This was the time where we marked everything about obedience in blue and every reference to Christ is red. Lots of blue and red. A great, great experience, I want to do it again, marking different things this time. Great idea by President Richardson. I feel so happy when I read the Book of Mormon, I hope you're all doing it every day.

With more talks from leaders and more news from the "outside," it is easy to see that some big trials are probably in the near future, and that we are passing through a lot of them right now. I've been thinking about what things need to be our anchors in the coming days. Obviously, Christ needs to be our foundation, He should be the center of everything. So, more the idea is what we can do in these days to build our faith and our testimony in Christ. I was thinking about a few things.

1. Temple attendance. In the states, we don't realize how blessed we are. Within a few hours, we can be in the temple. Here, people are happy going twice a year. We need to attend the temple more than we currently are. I'm one to talk, as I haven't gone in over a year, but I have a valid excuse...

2. House attendance. I think that this is a big problem. Here, the kids who are never home are never doing good things. We need to be in our homes more. A nice vacation here and there is great, like going to Topsail Island, but we need to focus more on important moments at home. That's where the good things are taught, learned, and lived. We've gotta spend more time at home with our families. After all, our home should be like a temple to us.

3. Daily scripture study. I was flojo on that back home. I read every day from the scriptures, but I didn't study them. Just opening them isn't enough anymore. We need to study them deeply to strengthen our faith and to be prepared for testimony earthquakes that will certainly come. Bible, Book of Mormon, Doctrine and Covenants, Pearl of Great Price, Liahona magazine, any material that we can get our hands on to teach us more about the Gospel. We need a deeper Gospel knowledge than we currently have to better feel the Spirit to to be earthquake proof with our testimonies. We should especially study the Book of Mormon, because it all, 100%, depends on if that Book is true. If you already know it is, know it better. If you aren't sure yet, do what it says in the introduction, read, ponder, pray. We've gotta study more.

4. Keep a good journal. A really good one, with good and bad things that have happened and the things that you've learned from all of your experiences. Focus on the spiritual stuff, and talk a little about the other stuff.

5. Write your testimony down with the date, and renew it every month or so. Never forget the testimony that you have, that is a dangerous thing that happens sometimes. I've seen it happen a lot here, people just forgetting the testimony that they once have. Write what you know and why you know it, and look back on it frequently.

6. Buy Elder Thomas and iPhone 5. What? Who put that in there?

Those are five big things that I was thinking about, just ideas. There are many more that we could add, but bottom line is that we've gotta gear up for the times ahead. The better prepared we are, the better we'll put up with whatever happened. Focus on your testimonies, and stay true to it rather than to other people. The Church is true.

Love you guys, talk to you in a week!

Elder Thomas

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

"What? Who? They want you to take the dinner rolls!" Boy Meets World

Hey all,

Let's start with a stress relieving exercise. Close your eyes.

You feel the breeze coming across the hills from the ocean, you can see it coming in the grass on the hills. It hits you, you inhale, and almost vomit.
"What is that horrible smell?" you think.

You open your eyes to see what the source of the stench is, and dust blows into your eyes, mixed with floating ash from burned stuff. A naked little boy runs by you as he is eating a very dirty banana.

"This," you think, "is the life."

Welcome to Esmeraldas.

You probably want to see pictures, I haven't taken any yet. I brought my camera to the cyber, but I don't have any new pictures. Usually I always have it in my backpack, but if I do that here, they will rob me blind. So, we'll see when I can get pictures. The ocean is really pretty though. I have to climb up a hill to see it, but it's not too far away. The market is so funny, it makes me laugh so hard every time we walk by it. There are carcases of cows, pigs, chickens, just sitting out in the open air, as well as all kinds of sea food. It smells terrible, and there is no way that it is safe. And, I probably eat food that comes from there. Faith, baby, faith. So far I haven't gotten sick or robbed, but that is probably something that won't be true forever. A lot of things make me laugh here, I love it. If I had started my mission here, I probably would have been super grossed out like Erica with everything, but at this point those things are just normal and funny. Classic Ecuador.

The law of chastity does not exist here. Pretty much everyone here that is married is married because they are members of the Church. No one else is married, rarely, if ever, do you find a married couple. So, that is a big thing here, getting people married. We were teaching a couple the other day, and I wanted to punch the guy in the face. The wife totally wants to get married, the girls always do. The guys are just bums. This guy told us, "It's better to try it out first just to see if it works, then we can get married." I told him that that is terrible logic, that my parents never lived together before getting married and they've been together for almost 30 years. Then, I asked him, "And how long have you guys been living together?" Response. "4 years." I almost laughed in his face, as well as his wife. He had no excuse to not want to get married other than he didn't want to be responsable. And, that's pretty much the attitude of every guy here. They get a girl pregnant, and figure they have to live together, but they don't want to commit. I guess the members are really good about visiting and helping them get married, though. Every Friday they have couple's night to help people see the blessings of being married. But, yeah, the law of chastity does not exist, and even if they know about it, it isn't important to them. We need Elder Bednar to come give his talk here from 5 months ago. Another example.

Before my old companion left here, he told me about a 17 year old girl they contacted. They asked her about her life, and she gave the typical response that a 17 year old girl would and should give. Something along the lines of, "Oh, I live here with my boyfriend and my two little kids, I just stay home all day while my boyfriend works!" Such a happy, normal response for a 17 year old. Wait, WHAT? You've got to be kidding me. I think that we should have a contest in the zone to see who can find the youngest girl with the most children. Winner gets KFC.

So yeah, that's tough. And, we don't know most of the members yet because we are both new and have no idea where any of them live. We're working on that so that they can help teach the people who need to get married and get the men to be men. Truly, truly 100%, the only truly good men who I've met on my mission are the brethren of the priesthood or those who are ready to accept the Gospel. Men need to learn how to be men here, they're not very good at it. At least exercise, for heaven's sake, you're all fat here! Someone send in Tony Horton or a drill sargeant of something, we've got men to make. I'm thinking of forcing them all into intense Navy SEAL training to get them going, I'll see if President Richardson approves the idea.

We had a good work week, but a bad fruits week. It was my first week in months not having people at church, which kind of stunk, but that's part of opening up a sector. It used to be so hard to work and work and have no one attend church, it would feel like I wasted the weeks away. But, the more I understand my purpose as a missionary, the harder it is for me to get sad. I know when I'm doing my job, and I know when I could be doing better. Every week there is something that goes wrong and something that we should do better, and there's no point in being sad about that knowledge. It's just a great chance to grow. The mission is great, isn't it? So, we'll keep on working, and good things will happen.

I've opened pretty much every sector in my mission. (Opened just means we're either the first missionaries in the area of we're two new ones sent in blind.) GuamanĂ­, when I got there we had no investigators. Opened the Gasca. Opened the second sector in Lago. Pretty much opening here. I've grown to like it, because really it makes you think of others more than yourself. You get to a new or broken sector, and you want to make it better not just for yourself, but more for the future missionaries that come. You can clean the house, gain the confidence of the members, find investigators, fill the area book, and you leave it way better than you found it. Clearly, it feels good to find investigators and to help them receive a valid baptism, but I think it feels even better leaving a sector when lots of good things happening. That's the best feeling in the world, just helping others. Hopefully we can keep the sector clean, make it better, and whether it's me that sees the people get baptized or the future missionaries that will be here, I'll feel happy.

We did a service this week, it felt great. I haven't done a service in a very long time. I think I remember the missionaries in Minnesota having set service hours every week. Here, it's too tough to have set hours, but I wish it were possible. Any service just makes you happier, and makes you so excited to work. Yay, service. We helped people build their house. Houses don't make sense here. They are all made of sense, and they are made much more by faith than by physics. I think the general mentality is "Oh, the cement will hold it!" and somehow it does. I don't understand how, but it works just fine. One day, I'll be in a well designed house that actually was planned out before building began.

We've had no problems with disobedience from any of the missionaries lately. Really, all Esmeraldas needs is Batman and many of it's problems will go away. I saw a guy this week chasing after a theif with a machete and throwing big rocks at him, so at least he was trying to destroy injustice. I don't think that it's a coincidence that I was sent here. Mom and Dad, I may need to take out a few billion dollars to prepare myself. Good thing we invested in the Wayne Interprises, ¿no? But, we do need the principle that Joker talks about in the second Batman. He talks about how the relationship between him and Batman is like "when and unstoppable force meets and immovable object." The temptations here are pretty much an unstoppable force, they're always going to be here. We just need to be immovable objects. We're trying to help the Elders to be just that. A big problem, I was told, is the members. They really want to have wicked missionaries, and try to make them wicked. They pressure them and pressure them, as well as investigators, and boom, they fall. Be good members, and all of you should know the mission rules just as well as us missionaries do to help us to live them.

You should never underappreciate a good piece of toast. There is a granola here that is really good with coconut and raisins, love it!

Mango season is coming up in about a month! There is a mango tree behind our house. Score. Also, colada morada, the best drink ever made, will be made November 1st. Mark your calendars, it is so darn good.

I listened to a talk by Neal that I really like, it was called "Consecrate thyselves," or something like that. I love it, he talks about how we have to dedicate everything in every way to the Lord, everything. He talks about how our will is really the only thing that is uniquely ours to offer the Lord, everything else is really His already, He just let us use it for awhile. We can all do better about that--doing everything for the Lord in every way possible. Pilas, guys.

Elder Black is a great companion. We're getting to know each other and we're learning a lot together. He's the oldest in his family, his youngest sister is 3. He was at BYU and is from Utah. I'm glad that I can say something different when people ask, "Where are you from Utah?" I tell them Minnesota, and they don't understand, but at least I can feel special and different. We get along fine, and he'll be a great leader in the misison. He gave me some peanut butter, so that was pretty sweet.

Contacts here are fun. In Quito, the people are generally very closed. You've gotta have a really good contact to get them to listen, because they are all Catholic and have no intentions to change (even though they never even go to church). No good contact, no lesson. I got good at contacts in Quito. Lago, the people were a little more open, with an okay, pretty brief contact, you can get in to teach and they listen. Here, sometimes I literally say, "Hey, we're missionaries and we teach about Jesus Christ. We'd like to teach you right now." And they 80% of the time let us in. Super funny, super chill people here. Not as many progress, but at least you can teach a lot of people good things. No effort is ever wasted in the mission.

I hope all is going well back in America. Can you believe it's almost November already? Keep me filled in on the things going on with your lives, I love hearing from you all. I'll try not to get any parasites in the coming week, but no parasites. I'll try to find a way to take some pictures, too. And to not get robbed.

Next week, I need to go to Quito again for the leaders' council, but Esmeraldas isn't as far away. We're going to leave as early as we can, and I should still be able to write without any problems. Yay, traveling!

I love you guys! Read your scriptures, pray, and go to church/the temple, and you'll be way happier than you are right now. Keep on going! There is a great quote that I like, "Everything will be okay in the end. If everything isn't okay right now, then it is not the end." Anonymous supposedly wrote that, but we could just put my name and no one could deny it.

Keep being obedient!


Elder "0 parasites and counting" Thomas

Monday, October 14, 2013

"Sometimes people say stupid things, like, 'this water is ice cold.' If it was really ice cold, it would be ice." Dwight Schrute

Hey all,

What is going on? Do I have lots of time to write you guys? How weird is that!

Raise your hand if you can see the ocean from where you live, (My hand is raised.)

Raise your hand if you will most likely get robbed where you live. (My hand is raised.)

Raise your hand if the streets are covered in garbage where you live. (My hand is raised.)

Hopefully, I beat you all in scoring 3/3, and hopefully at most you scored 1/3. Oh, Ecuador, how cute. Esmeraldas is super different. Everyone always talks about how hot it is here, but it is nothing compared to Lago. There is a nice ocean breeze all the time, carrying with it a light cloud of dirty dust that stings you eyes and the light, fresh scent of burned garbage. It is really pretty to see the ocean, but it is not a clean city. There are dirt roads everywhere, and lots of poor sectors. Almost every place we visit, they say, "Don't come here at night. You'll get robbed!" Excellent!

My original companion, Elder Acevedo, was my companion for a week. I arrived at the big bus terminal in Quito, Quitumbe, and ran into him, to my surprise. He explained that he had a medical appointment that night, and that we had to go to the hospital. Well, we didn't get back to Esmeraldas until Thursday. At the beginning of my mission, not working for a few days sounded awesome. It's not. It's just boring. On Thursday, he talked with President and had to be transferred to Quito, so today we had emergency changes and my new companion is Elder Black, a gringo. I will be training him as a zone leader. So, new leader, new sector, and I'm basically starting from nothing. I had three days (Friday, Saturday, and Sunday) to learn what I could. So, here's to relying on the Spirit! Woo! For my whole mission, I've always though, "oh, it will get easier with more time." And it really only gets harder as time gets on, you're just so tired and hungry that you don't notice it as much. I'm excited for my new shoes to get here, because I am basically walking in my socks! Kidding, Mom! Don't worry...but really.

I miss the jungle a lot. Remember that scene in Cars, where he's in the last big race? He's driving and starts daydreaming of Radiator Springs. That's kind of how I feel here, I'm working really hard, but I think back a lot to the branch in Lago Agrio. But, I know that there are great things to happen here in Esmeraldas, and with hard work and patience, I will be able to help a lot of missionaries and a lot of investigators to gain stronger testimonies of the gospel. Plus, if it really is like Cars, soon I'll have to save the old car guy after he crashes, so that's important, too.

I don't know why, but Esmeraldas has a bad history with obedience. It is weird if something bad doesn't happen every three of four months here. All that jazz that happened about this time last year, when President Ghent had to send tons of missionaries home, happened here. Recently, more stuff happened, and they had to change things up. Why is obedience so hard sometimes? It is so easy to see that, like countless prophets have said, obedience brings blessings, disobedience only makes us sad. In the stake here, there are over 4000 members, and only about 1000 attend. I am sure that it is because disobedient missionaries baptized people without them having gained a testimony because they didn't have the Spirit with them. It is so sad to see things like that. Nothing good can happen in life without the blessing from the Lord for keeping His commandments. So, hopefully my new companion and I can set the example of how to be obedient, Spirit-led missionaries. Yay, lots of work to do!

Is Thor 2 coming out soon? And Captain America 2?

There is a ton of sea food here. It's really awesome. Crab, shrimp, fish, shark, and things I've never seen and probably never want to eat are all over the place. There is one dish, encebollado, that is very, very good here and only costs two dollars. It's like a tomatoish soup with fish, yuca, onions, and chifle(Fried banana chips), and it is really, really good. They have it in other parts of the country, but it is way better tasting here where the fish is fresh. Everyone cooks us mariscos, and it is killer good. I'm excited to try new seafood dishes here, and am just as excited for the probable parasites that will accompany them! I figure by now I already have a ton in my body, so the more, the merrier, right? The fish markets are hilariously dirty. I laugh out loud at some of the things I say, the way the store the meat and stuff. So not clean. Tunas are really big.

It's very weird for me to not sit up front, but to sit down below again. On Sunday, I just showed up, listened and participated, then left, nothing else! It was weird to not prepare the chapel, not have meetings, not have interviews, not count tithing, yada yada. I miss it a lot! It is definitely a weird transition. But, on the plus side, it is great to have endowed members with experience in the Church, a full bishopric, enough members to fill all the callings, all that stuff. You really can feel the difference when it is the members themselves presiding in the ward, much better than having a dumb gringo do it all. It is also cool to note the difference in the spiritual maturity of those who are endowed and those who are not. Basically no one in the branch was endowed, and they did their best, but they have a lot to learn. The endowed members here are all super pilas, super smart and right on track. It is a nice blessing that is associated with the temple. It is also cool to hear about the sacrifices that the older members had to make to be able to go to the temple back in the day, true pioneers of Ecuador.

I've been thinking a lot about the importance of patience lately. As a missionary, I have grown a great habit of always needing something productive to do. Before, I like to have a day every now and again of just laying around and being lazy. Now, if I'm not doing something productive, I feel like I'm sinning or something, haha. Sitting in the hospital with Elder Acevedo all day was not a very productive thing for a missionary to be doing, so I started going a little crazy. Just in my mind, I didn't show it. I just wanted to get to Esmeraldas and work. But, I had to be patient. A lot of things came to my mind about how I can learn to be more patient. Joseph Smith once said, "Patience is heavenly."

One thing is what I call the "Jack" principle. It has nothing to do with Jack Madsen, if it did, the principle could only consist of eating ice cream and messing my diaper. So, I'm not talking about that principle. I am talking about my man Jack Shephard, heck yeah. Throughout the series, they always talk about his whole "counting to 5" thing in his surgery. That comes in handy with a lot of things. You can apply it for pretty much any emotion, you let yourself feel it for 5 seconds then kick it out. So, when I start to feel impatient, I let myself for 5 seconds complain about the things that are driving me crazy, whatever they are, then after that, I have to be patient. It helps me to realize what things are out of my control, and after whining about them, I can just breath calmly and try and be more patient. Thanks, Jack.

Another thing that has helped me is my good pal, Neal Maxwell. A while back, Mom or Dad sent me a DearElder letter with a bunch of great quotes from my man Neal. A lot of them happened to talk about patience, perfect for what I've been studying. I didn't bring it with me, I forgot it, but he basically says, lovingly, when we are impatience, we are saying that we think that we know better than God's timing. Ouch, Neal, I thought that we were friends by now, what gives? But I love that quote and a handful of others that were included in that letter. The Lord always knows better than us, and when we push our own timetable instead of His, we're saying that we think that we know better than a God. Only Hercules is smarter than a god, and that was just with Hades and was a cartoon, so I'm not even sure if we can count that as real. Oh, just found the quote on, score! Here it is.

“Patience is tied very closely to faith in our Heavenly Father. Actually, when we are unduly impatient, we are suggesting that we know what is best—better than does God. Or, at least, we are asserting that our timetable is better than His

NIce, , Neal, thanks for that one. We'll see you at the next PTA meeting.

Now, let's talk about the good old General Conference. I am right there with Tommy Monson in saying that it is one of the best ones I can remember. Lots of great talks going over a number of different topics, all needed by every member of the Church. I thought the Elder Bednar's was especially interesting, on how tithing works in the Church. I was think the whole time, in your face, other churches! But in a loving, respectful way... Here, that is a big problem for people, the pastor says you have to pay tithing, and he has a big house, new car, all that junk. It's like this is the true church or something...huh. I also really enjoyed the priesthood session. It appears that it's not longer a "must be in the chapel" thing, right? It aired without need of a password online, so I would imagine that something changed. I love the priesthood session because I feel like I'm personally sitting down with the leaders and they are talking right to me. I also always love remembering going to the sessions with Dad. I don't remember many of the words I heard growing up, but I do remember that Dad was always sitting right beside me. Plus, he totally snuck me in before I even had the priesthood. No one ever caught us. Also pie. All of the talks were masterfully written and delivered. Edward Dube's was so cool, I thought I was listening to Sebastian from the Little Mermaid. He seems awesome, I was reading a little bit about him, cool guy. All the talks were so great. Hopefully by the end of the year the Liahona will show up and I can start studying the talks in more detail. President Monson is so inspired, and truly is a prophet of God. I always love listening to President Eyring talk, when he chokes up while speaking. Aww. I wish we had General Conference every week. Elder Oaks laid down the law. I felt that his talk was very intelligently written. The way he related having no other gods to the social problems that we face today was masterful, very well done. The Church, if you didn't know, is super true.

I love you guys, a lot. Eliza and Jack, you're kind of smelly, but I still love you. Thanks so much for being so faithful about writing to me. It is such a blessing to be able to hear from you all on a weekly basis. A lot of you say that your lives are boring, but I love hearing about everything you tell me and I think that everything that is happening in your life is interesting and exiting. I am so proud of you all and all of the good things that you are doing. I am glad to hear about your obedience to covenants, the best thing that any of you could be doing. We should never take the temple for granted. In the States, we are very blessing to have easy access to the temple... We should always think of the sacrifice that other people need to make to get to a temple and receive ordinances. The temple is such a wonderful blessing that we have. And remember, no life is ordinary, everything about live is extraordinary, even my famous raisin pie.
Don't forget to be happy. If you don't feel happy, apply the "Jack" principle. Not the Jack Madsen principle, although if that floats your boat, more power to you. If you don't feel happy, then don't be happy for 5 seconds, then get on with the show. There are many more happy things than sad things in this life. Happy things are eternal things, sad things have an end. We read nowhere in the scriptures of eternal sadness in the celestial kingdom, only elsewhere. Keep looking forward, don't focus on what's happened. Happiness is a choice!

That's about all I've got for you guys today. I hope that you are all well, and that all the food that you eat is parasite free! I'll eat enough parasites for all of us!

Love you all tons!

Elder Thomas

P.S. What is coming up soon and rhymes with Histmas? What what??

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

"I.....declare...bankruptcy!!" Michael Scott

Hey guys,

I'm here in Quito, tranquilito waiting to go to Esmeraldas tomorrow. I'm very tired and don't really have the ganas to write a ton write now, but I just wanted to shoot you some pictures and share a few thoughts, then on Monday I'll be able to write you guys a lot.

General Conference was amazing. I was able to watch in English, which was a great blessing. All of the talks were great, and I wish I had time to comment on each of them. I loved Elder Bednar´s talk, it was really good for the branch to hear about the importance of tithing. I loved the emphasis that they put on the importance of working together as missionaries and members. There really is no other way to have true success in the work. Elder Holland's talk was a touching one, as well. So great, I'll share more thoughts on the Conference with time. I left inspired to work hard and to be a better person in so many ways. I think that I want to start setting six month goals to set every Conference, because watching Conference inspires me to be better than any other thing in the year.

We had a great baptism of a sweet little family this week. They have two little kids (6 and 1), but only the 6 year old was at the baptism, their daughter was sick. It had rained the day before and the river was super, super flooded, so we had to do the baptisms in a swimming pool. It was weird for me, but I entered a swimming pool as a missionary. So rebellious. We confirmed them right after, and hopefully next week, the husband will get the priesthood. He has potential to be the branch president in the future, so hopefully they will keep working with him there.

It is very hard for me to leave. I am in kind of a "downer" mood right now to have left, but I'll get over it. All of the people in Lago grew to be my family. It is my only sector that I've had (of a whopping 3) where I stopped keeping track of time. I loved every minute, I loved every person, and my 6 months there flew by. I don't know if you remember, but the Monday after the April Conference, I came to Lago. Then, the Monday after the October Conference, I left. Six months on the dot. But, there are many great things ahead for me. The coast is full of very open people, and a lot of people of African descent live there. They say that years ago a slave ship crashed there, and there they stayed. They talk Spanish really cool, dropping all of their s's, and they eat tons of seafood. They say that it is about as hot as the orient is. My companion is Elder Acevedo, he only has 2 weeks there, so we are basically opening up a sector. Esmeraldas has a bad history. Lots of missionaries have "fallen," and had to be sent home without honor or worse, and it happens frequently. Hopefully we can be good examples of obedience to the missionaries there. (Just two weeks ago there was a case of disobedience.) Obedience is so important, so many people fail to realize that.

I'll write more next Monday when I FINALLY have a real P-day. I need to take more pictures.

Love you all tons,

Elder Thomas

Here are some pictures from Josh's birthday and some other pictures

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Hey all,

It is late on Tuesday and I'm not going to write that much because I am tired and there is a Subway closeby. Also, Monday is transfer day and I'm out of the orient, so I will probably have to travel very early to get to my new sector on time. So, I won't write Monday, either, best option will be just printing off. We have baptisms this Friday and then General Conference, so it is going to be a great weekend. It is a young couple getting baptized and they are super excited about it. Well, that's about all that I've got to tell you, I'll write you when I have time, may not be for two weeks. Elder Dearden says hi. I got the sweet package from the Cheneys, Cheneys, you guys are awesome.


Elder Thomas