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 lds.org, 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!
P.S. What is coming up soon and rhymes with Histmas? What what??