Monday, November 11, 2013

"My little buttercup has the sweetest smile! Dear little buttercup, won't you stay a while. You and I will settle down in a cottage built for two, oh, dear little buttercup, sweet little buttercup, my little buttercup, I love you!" The Three Amigos.

Hey all,

Totally went to a lighthouse today. There was tons of razor grass, and I got pretty cut up. But, totally worth it. I took over 100 pictures, it was so pretty. You could see the whole ocean, the shore, the city, big boats, and I think Shamu. It was super, super pretty. I'll send what pictures I can, but I won't be able to send them all. I shaved my head again too, it's just so much easier here where you sweat all the time. Hopefully I don't get changed next week to a cold place. Super, super cool.

We had a really good week, with a nice ol' Tuco Tuesday. It is pretty funny sometimes how easy it is to teach new people here sometimes. You'll knock on the door, and sometimes without saying anything they just open the don't and shout "Come on in!" They always listen to us, but few of them progress. But, at least you get a lot of opportunities to teach and to testify, which is what we're supposed to do. The law of chastity and the word of wisdom are really tough here. Even if the people know it's the right thing to do, they don't want to. Poor guys. But, we keep working and we keep being happy.Good things will happen so enough, we just gotta keep doing what we should.

They give us a lot of rice here, a lot of carbs. I try to get my companions running, but it doesn't always work out. We burn tons of calories just walking around, but I think that I might have gained a little weight here, just a bit. Maybe not, I have no way to tell. I could have lost weight for all that I know. But, I am being good about my exercises and I'm doing a lot more push ups now since we don't go out and run as much, and I feel like I'm getting stronger again. I can't jump anymore though, my legs have thinned out from walking all day long. I won't be very good at basketball when I get back. But, no sense in thinking of that now!

It's weird how my attitude has changed over time about things here. Before, all the food and all the new culture stuff seemed so weird to me. To be honest, at first it seemed way "lower" than what I thought was acceptable. Now, everything seems so natural to me, and thinking about how things are done at home are starting to be weird. I first got here, and people would offer us as a "dessert" boiled whole milk with sugar in it. It was so weird and nasty, and now it's totally normal and thinking about drinks like apple cider or hot chocolate seems totally foreign to me.  Tons of stuff like that is just the norm now, it's just become how things are done. One thing that I do still hate though is how much the fry stuff. For example,
 "Elder Thomas, want a banana?"
"Sure!...Wait, why are you frying it?"
"Elder Thomas, how about a nice bread and cheese empanada?"
"Oh boy!, don't put it in the oil..come on..."
That's still pretty gross. But, that's how it is! And I really love colada morada.

I was thinking about some stuff while studying yesterday, about some things that I see here, in investigators, members, and missionaries, that aren't as they should be. Things that aren't lived as they should be, studied as they should be, any kind of lack of appreciation for things in the Gospel. Thinking about it, I think that a common problem is that things rarely lose their truthfulness to people, but they do lose their sacredness. And then I started thinking about how that applies to all of us in some way or another. For members, the things we believe we usually believe for our whole lives. But, at various points in our lives, the things that we believe may lose their sacredness for a time. Many people I have seen take for granted the Book of Mormon, for example. Everyone says it is true, but few people truly study it realizing that it is sacred scripture. The same goes for temple stuff, Sunday stuff, all that jazz. We just need to be on top of things and never forget the sacredness of the truths that we know. If members and missionaries could be better about that here, they would be so much stronger. And as our appreciation grows for the sacredness of Gospel truths, we'll naturally become more like our Savior and be more like him. So, keep sacred things sacred.The Nephites had that problem, too, it talked about them sharing sacred things with people who weren't ready for them, and that led to the end of the Nephites. So, if it is sacred, keep it sacred. Sacred is a lot more than true, and there are a lot of sacred things that we have.

My things are starting to break. My sandal broke, I took it to a shoe store today, hopefully they have fixed it by now. We'll see after I write. That's another weird thing. If my shoe broke back home, I would never think to take it to a shoe store, I'd probably just look for new ones. Here, no one buys no shoes unless they have no other option. My watch broke, too, that faithful watch. First, about a month ago, the hands stopped working. Then, the strap broke two weeks ago. I don't want to buy a new one, but I can't find anyone to fix it. They don't have the right kind of strap. If I can't find one, I'll either buy one at a store for $8, or there is a special right now that if you buy 10 packs of Oreos, you get a free little watch. Whichever is cheaper I'll do. That watch was a good one. I started my mission with a watch like Dad has, but that broke in the MTC. Nat bought me one at Walmart or something like that and sent it with Sister Madsen, and the pal's been with me ever since. Don't you die on me. Everything else is holding up good. I need to dry clean my suit, but there isn't a place to do it...and there hasn't been one where I've lived for almost 8 yeah. The news shoes are great, the old ones are still walkable, and my clothes are doing good. Only one pair of pants has a hole in the pocket, but I just put duct tape on both sides of the hole and it seems to be working fine.

We're teaching a little kid that looks just like Russell from Up. I'll attach a picture. He can't get baptized though because his parents are not very smart. We'll keep talking to them and they'll turn around. The adults here are not good parents and are not responsible. It is really sad to see, actually. They all get pregnant at 17 years, live with their "husbands" and have no idea how to raise a baby and never care enough to learn how. It makes me mad sometimes to see it. Most of the adults that we teach don't  progress cause they are all like that. Their kids are super smart though, and they progress. They have to be awesome kids because their parents stink. This little kid is one of the smartest 11 year olds that I've met here in Ecuador. Great little kid.

We had the Primary program this last week, as did you guys it sounds. It was good! There were about 10 kids in the program, but they did a good job. No one knows how to play the piano except me, and the piano is horribly out of tune, so they use a CD player for all the music. It was funny, there weren't many kids singing the songs, so you could basically just hear the music player. But, it's awesome to see the same happiness in the faces of the kids and their parents as you see in a thriving ward in the States--they're all families that have received the blessings of the Gospel and especially the temple. That's a universal happiness that you can see in any LDS family anywhere in the world. It seems like just 10 years ago that I was in my last Primary program. I probably gave a killer 3 minute talk on helping around the house with chores.

We've been working a lot with less actives here. I don't remember if I've said this before, but our ward has about 800 less active people. Granted, many have probably moved away, but we're still talking hundreds of less active people. It's mostly the fault of the missionaries, just trying to baptize tons instead of helping people become converted, but still, bottom line is that they decided to be baptized and need to keep living the Gospel. The promise that President Richardson gave us when we learned about the new stuff we'd be doing to work more with less actives was that if we want to find people to teach and progress, we need to work more with less actives. We've been trying to do that, and it's working really well. Pretty much everyone we are teaching is a reference or a family member of a less active. It is such a good way to work, because you not only bring someone new into the Church, but someone old, as well. They can support each other and they can all become active in the Church together. We have a temple trip coming up, which is good motivation for less actives to get going and to get clean to be able to go.

We've got three baptized planned for this coming Saturday, hopefully everything turns out fine. They live right in front of our house, and it is a reactivation/finding new people effort that helped us to have these people. It's been great to see the process in everyone involved in growing closer to Christ.

We've been studying this week how we can do better about teaching the Restoration lesson. We teach it tons and tons, and it can be easy to fall into a routine and to plane out instead of getting better every day. We were talking about how we usually focus too much on the organization of Christ's Church (Prophets, Apostles, and Priesthood) and how that was restored through Joseph Smith, but really that shouldn't be our focus. The lesson itself is called the Restoration of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. We should really be focused on how the Gospel is restored, not primarily the organization. Everything that happened in the Restoration happened to help us the have the whole Gospel again. We need the priesthood power to perform the necessary ordinances for salvation. We need prophets to correct us when we're wrong and to guide us when new problems arrive. He can't do it alone, so we have Apostles helping him. The reason that our message is so important is because only here we have what we need to truly live the Gospel as God instructed, not primarily because we have the correct organization. All of those things are important, but what we want people to understand is that the Gospel has been restored. And what a blessing it is to know that. We know can have faith, repent, be baptized, receive the Holy Ghost and endure to the endure in the right way and with the help of people with priesthood power.

We had surprise studies with missionaries this week. It is a problem in the mission that missionaries get up late, and we are supposed to show up early to see if they are awake, make them breakfast, and study with them to help them get better about waking up. We did two this week, and they were fun. We stole a waffle iron from some missionaries and made waffles and eggs, with Aunt Jemimah syrup. They didn't turn out too well, but it'll do for now. At least it was edible. We also ended up cleaning a lot for them, because their houses were filthy. We do a good job keeping the house fairly clean, some missionaries are terrible at it.

Elder Tirado is super fun to be around. He still needs to be more obedient, but when he's doing so, he's really fun. He's the classic chubby guy. He wants to get skinny and exercise with me. I explained the concept of calories to him, and it totally rocked his world. After I finished explaining, he asked,

"Does oil have a lot of calories?"
"Yep, tons."
"Fetch! That's why I'm getting fat! What should I eat instead?"

I told him some stuff, and he bought tons and tons of carrots. It is super funny, he walks around everywhere, all day, eating carrots. All the members and investigators make fun of him and call him the rabbit. He bought celery today, too. What a nut. He makes me laugh about a lot of things, but he's got a lot to get better at, too. He's got a problem with the whole truthfulness/sacredness thing, that's one of the reasons that I've been thinking about it. But, fun guy.

Well, I can't think of too much more that I could write, I think that's about all that I've got for this week. You guys are all awesome, be sure to preach the gospel. Don't do stupid things!

Also, quick note, if you have good missionary Christmas music, please send me what you've got. Basically any song other than "I'll Be Home for Christmas," for obvious reasons.

Love you!

Elder Thomas

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