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.) Guamaní, 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