Monday, January 27, 2014

"I am a stratus cloud, Mister Stratus is my name, I'm long and low but wherever I go, I often bring you rain!" That movie with the flying train

Hey all,

Another crazy week, but we finally have a tranquilo P-day without anything taking away tons of time. It feels good to take some time to relax for a bit from all of the craziness. And eat lots of food.

So, I got the mega-load with packages. I got Steve's mother-of-all-packages, and the next day I arrive at the offices to find another package from the Ebberts, with essentially the same things. You all know me too well. I am presently in heaven, eating a little bit of everything, and trying to hold back my companions from eating everything all at once. The Captain Crunch has not been open yet, two big boxes waiting for me. One complaint with the Captain. They finally changed the front of the box, yet the back remains the exact same. It has had the same back for years and hasn't changed. Get with the times.

After doing the verifications and stuff on Monday, we had a great leader's meeting on Tuesday here in Quito. What we're doing this month is having a leader's meeting on Tuesday, and a general meeting the next day with all of the missionaries. It's been working well so far, and Elder Ospina and I stay for a few days to do divisions. This week, the meetings were in Quito, so we didn't travel Tuesday or Wednesday. The meetings went great, we are seeing the progress we want in the mission little by little. We were really happy to see the weekly Area report this week--usually we are quite low in everything, but in January, when we started pushing the missionaries a little bit more, the numbers spiked up, and we're at or above average in almost everything, now we just need to get our number of baptisms up. We're pretty low in that for a lot of reasons, but we'll getting better. We're still in the "building" stages of the mission, we'll get there. The meeting on Wednesday was huge, there were about 90 missionaries there. But, it was a great meeting, with good participation and good commentaries. We're happy with what we saw there.

On Wednesday night, we traveled to Otavalo, well close to Otavalo. A pretty little town called Ibarra. It really is so pretty in that area. I forgot my camera, so I don't have pictures, but we'll go back on Tuesday for trainings. There is this volcano, Imbabura, that I just can't get enough of. It is so big and so green, it really takes my breath away every time that I see it. Right at the base of it, there is a clear, blue lake, picture perfect. I thought that the orient was the most beautiful part of Ecuador, but Otavalo wins it. Loved it. Ibarra has some problems. Supposedly, it is the oldest district in the Church, it's been a district forever. Hearing about it, I thought it was some poor little town, but I had no idea because I had never been there. I show up, and it is a huge town with 2 malls and around 10 KFC's. I was really surprised, being in Ecuador, it could easily have 2 stakes. There is a lot of work to do there, but the missionaries who are sent there usually see it as a death sentence rather than an opportunity to grow. I was with the zone leaders, and I shared with them my experience in Lago--arriving and it was a failing branch, and by the time I left, it was strong and growing. It all depends on our attitude and our work, there is nothing else that impedes us from having success. I went to their district meeting with them, tried to help the zone get excited with the work, then we worked hard all day long and killed it. We had 4 or 5 lessons with members, found 4 new people, got some lady ready for her interview and stuff, a great day. The zone leaders felt really good about the day, and hopefully they can keep working hard and have every day be the same. They just gotta work hard and believe that they'll have success. It's amazing how much of an influence your attitude has.

We were there until Friday in Otavalo. After the divisions, we had to help the secretaries find new houses for the changes coming up, we're opening more sectors in Otavalo. In just the city Otavalo, we'll have 30 missionaires, so we'll have to divide the zone soon. We have 10 right now, in the coming months we'll have to divide lots because we'll get up to 225 missionaries and we're only at 175 right now. 50 more will call for more zones, but it should be a great blessing. More missionaries should mean more success. Friday night, we had time for two appointments at night, both of them are great. We're working really hard with an inactive family, the Cabrera family. They got baptized a long, long time ago, and for various reasons and trials, they went inactive. The dad was never baptized, but their four kids were. One of them even went through the temple. But, they're all inactive now. We've "rescued" the mom, she attends every week. We're focusing a lot on the temple with them, and we want to help the dad get baptized and activate the other kids and their non-member wives and kids. It is a family with a lot of potential, and little by little they are progressing. We had a very, very spiritual lesson with the mom and the dad last Sunday, an excellent lesson. We focused on the temple and the priesthood and how important it is to have the priesthood in a home. They told us of all the trials that they are facing right now, and they were pretty sad with all that was going on. I started speaking, and some unplanned words came out, totally inspired words from the Spirit. After they told me about their problems, I told them that the Lord was putting them in their life right now so that they can arrive at the temple, so that they understand that the only real refuge is what the Lord can give us as we make covenants with Him. I said that, and they all started crying, even we were. The dad, who usually never prays, offered to give the last prayer and got very emotional during it. We're seeing progress, I know that we can help them to get to the temple if we can keep pushing them.

The other appointment that we had was with Dante, a sweet kid, a reference from a member. When we first met him, they told us, "Don't judge him, he's got things to improve, but that's why we need to teach him the Gospel." All right, great introduction. We meet him, super tattooed, piercings, etc. But, we taught him, and it was a good little lesson, but for a few weeks we weren't able to meet with him. With the new year, he wanted to really focus on the Gospel and grow closer to the Lord, so we started working hard with him. He's been to Church twice now, and he's going to be baptized on the 8th of February. A few cool experiences with him. After his first attendance, we met with him, taught him, he's great. Everything we leave to read in the Book of Mormon, he reads and he understands, everything you want in an investigator. But, we had the fear of the impending "you need to take out your earrings" talk. We went to Esmeraldas that week, and had no appointment with him before church came on Sunday. The whole time, we were thinking, "How do we do this?" We showed up to church, and Dante was already there...without his earrings in, looking great. We had no idea what was going on, no one had told him that he should take them out.

 We went to an appointment with him later that day, and he told us his story. He went to visit his parents, they live in a town called Santo Domingo, about four hours from here. His parents don't like his tattoos or his piercings, and they got in a little fight about it, that it was time for him to grow up and be more of an adult. He got mad and went to his room, he said he was crying. While he was there, he said that he did the only thing that he could think of--pray like we taught him. So, he prayed, and he said that after he looked at himself in the mirror and thought, "How ridiculous do I look?" and took out most of his earrings. Some of them will take a little bit of time to take out completely, but he took them out totally by his own choice, without anyone telling him to. He just prayed, and he felt what he needed to do. How cool is that?

 During the lesson, we're talking about his baptism, he said he still felt so so about it, he wanted to study a bit more and stuff, but he wanted to eventually. We supported him and told him that we're always willing to teach and help. After, when we were leaving, he said, "Wait. I have one more thing to say. I am getting baptized on February 8th. I don't know, I just feel like it is what I need to do." Super cool. That's a real conversion story right there. He has learned the principles- prayer,scripture study, church attendance, the commandments-and he is now able to govern himself. He is making changes to his life, but is so happy, he's told us that many times. He loves to pray, loves church, loves it all. The family that gave us the reference is a great help to him, and he's already great friends with all of the youth. He will be a great member, he is understanding the Gospel and the blessings of the Atonement.

Gotta love the mission. I hear that some of you are going to eat with Elder Burr. Treat that boy like a king, he is such a good guy, I learned so much from him, and I miss being his companion. He's the best!

I found this great manual on, I'll try to post it with the email. It is awesome, I think that it was a BYU class manual, but it about how to be good leaders. I've only studied a couple of chapters, but I'm learning tons about how to be a good leader. It's interesting, one of the first things that it teaches is the importance of living the "Golden Rule," and that only good leaders truly do that. It cites scriptures from almost every religion, and of everything that they believe differently, in every book of their scripture, it mentions in some form the Golden Rule. Pretty interesting, and it is so true. If we ask someone to do something that we wouldn't do, we'll never lead well. Jesus did that, as always He is the Perfect Example. I'm learning a whole lot from it, you should study parts from it while you can. It also mentions how when we better understand the Plan of Salvation, we become better leaders. We understand everyone's divine potential and better serve them, because we know what they can become instead of focusing on who they are. We also feel an increased loved for those whom we serve, because we know that we are all children of our Heavenly Father.

We watched the Joseph Smith movie today before going to the soccer game, it was helping me with all these things that I've been learning about being a good leader. Joseph Smith was awesome. I love the scene when he rebukes the drunk guards mocking the Mormons, shows them up big time, the stud. But I love when right after, he says with emotion, "The worth of every soul is great in the sight of God." The way he says it is so great, stressing on the words "every" and "great." That is the view that the Lord has, and there is no better leader than him. As said earlier and in many ways by many people, we must love those whom we serve, and see them through eternal eyes, focusing on their eternal worth. I feel like I have tons to learn about being a good leader, but I love studying these things and applying them. There are so many great leaders in history with many different great ways to lead. There is always something new to learn about leadership, I hope I can always keep learning and progressing as leader. Maybe one day I could make it to manager of a Wendy's.

Elder Callister is a boss. He is becoming a new favorite of mine, up there with big Neil and Gordon B. His talks are killer. There are two that I love, one about integrity and one about being a consecrate missionary. I'm reading the consecrated missionary one this week for my first time, and it is awesome. He gave it in the MTC in 2008, awesome talk. He talks about how we need to leave everything behing, focusing entirely on the mission. No worries about home, about school, work, girls, nada. He gives the example of Parley P. Pratt, who served a mission for around 25 yeras. I'll put in the quote right here, it is really cool what Parley P. says.

I have desired, after travelling for twenty-five or twenty-six years, mostly abroad, to stay at home and minister among the people of God, and take care of my family; but God’s will be done, and not mine. If it is the will of God that I should spend my days in proclaiming this Gospel and bearing testimony of these things, I shall think myself highly privileged and honored. And when the Spirit of God is upon me, I think it matters but very little what I suffer, what I sacrificed–whether I secure the honor or dishonor of men, or where I die, if it so be that I can keep the faith, fight the good fight, and finish my course with joy. I have all eternity before me, in which to enjoy myself.

 Pretty cool, huh? That's a great attitude to have. I'd recommend the talk for anyone who hasn't read it, and to read it again if you have. We won't be asked to serve for 25 years, but we can still be more consecrated to the work from home as well. If we're consecrated, we give up pride, we give up disobedience, we give up talking bad about others, we do all that we can to give everything to the work. There is one more thing that he says that I liked. Paraphrasing, he says, "If you want to baptize a few people, talk to a few people. If you want to baptize a lot of people, talk to a lot of people. If you want to baptize everybody that you can, talk to everybody that you can." A consecrated missionary chucks fear at the door and just invites all the people that he can to come unto Christ. Killer talk, so good. Way to go, Tad.

I'm learning lots here, and I feel like I'm growing to be better and better every day. There is so much in life that we need to get better at, and when we focus on the Gospel as we try to do so, we can happily and consistently improve and become more like the Savior.

I love you all tons, and wish you all luck in whatever you need luck for. I know that the Church is true, and I know that we need to say that more and more to other people. We're going to Otavalo this week, hopefully I can take some pictures. I'll attach one that was on the computer, it's pretty, but doesn't do it justice (it looks like it was taken in the dry season. Right now it is very, very green there). Read your scriptures, go to the temple, and do all that you can happily! You're all the best!

Elder Thomas

Monday, January 20, 2014

"I see the moon, and the moon sees me, God bless the moon, and God bless me." That weird Mother Goose movie we watch when we were little

Hey all,

Time is short today, so I am going to write briefly, and whenever I have more time to write again (maybe not until next week), I'll give more details.

Monday, we just did verifications all day and planned stuff for the trainings this month.

Tuesday, we left bright and early for Esmeraldas. It is pretty when you leave the city, but when you are in the city, it is like a sewer, bless its heart. I do miss it a lot, though, I love my time serving there. I especially have missed the heat, after living for so long in hot conditions, my body got used to it. It felt good to sweat again. We got there around lunchtime, and got to have a great leaders' meeting with all of the zone leaders and district leaders there in the coast. It was a great environment, just me, Elder Ospina, and the Richardsons in a smaller room with the leaders. We called a lot of new, young leaders this change to try to vamp things up in the mission, and we had this meeting to train them in a little bit. It was really great. We talked about a variety of things, their responsibilities, the forms they should fill out, what we expect from them, etc. Elder Ospina and I have been preparing a training for quite some time about becoming good pastors, and we feel like it went well. We got to stay the night in a really pretty beachside town, Atacames, with the Elder who live there.

Wednesday morning, we got permission to go running on the beach, super pretty. It was just us and no one else out there on the sand, really calming to hear the ocean waves and to see out into the horizon. The earth is super pretty, just when you're around dirty people, it can loose its appeal for a bit. We spent the day in a meeting with all of the missionaries, not just the leaders, and the theme was basically that we're expecting more from them than we are currently seeing, a "pep rally" of sorts to get us working harder. It went well, I think that they got the message. We also talked to them about the importance of supporting their leaders. Some of the new leaders are very young in the mission and are leaders of missionaries with a lot more experience, so we need their support even if they feel like they should be the leaders instead of the young pups. After, we went by 5 or 6 of the houses to verify them, and we were shocked to find them really clean. Usually, they are disasters and we have to get on their backs about cleaning, but we were surprised by what we saw. Hopefully they can now stay clean (they probably won't). I spent the night with on pair of zone leaders, Elder Ospina with the others so that we could do divisions on Thursday.

Thursday, I spent all day working with the zone leaders. It was great. It was my first full day of proselyting since I've been in the offices, and it was so much fun. We had our district meeting, ward council and mission correlation meeting, and we had some good appointments and found some new people. It was a very effective day. It rained all day, and we came home wet, muddy, and sweaty, and it was the best feeling in the world. I miss working full days like that, especially in the heat. But, the offices are a blessing as well, and a great opportunity to learn. I am happy where I am. We were able to spend some time at night talking about the needs of the zone and how the zone leaders could get better, and we set some great goals.

Friday, we headed back home. There is this great dish called encebollado ("onioned" in English), that is one of our favorite things to eat here. It has fish, so it is best eaten in the coast where the fish is fresh. We stopped by the best restaurant in Esmeraldas and ate a bowl or two before leaving. The bus is about 7 hours long, and they usually play movies on the ride, so we get excited to see what movies they put. Sometimes, they're great, sometimes, they're duds. This time? About as dud as you can get. Breaking Dawn Part 2. Boo.

Yeah, we have to go right now, I'll finish later. We have a baptism tonight that we need to get ready. Sorry. Quick finish, we went to the Equator today, totally balanced the egg on the nail and got a special certificate. Boo yah. Also, I got the Madsen, Lowe, and Jensen Christmas cards this week, thanks for send them!

Love you tons, I'll write more later,

Elder Thomas

"Once an Austrian went yodelling on a mountain so high, when he met with a milking maid interrupting his cry. OOOOOEEEEEEAAAAAA Oli rock ahi a holi rock a who! Arf Arf! Grr! Rumble rumble! Oli rock ahi a holi rock a who! Arf Arf! Grr! Rumble rumble!Oli rock ahi a holi rock a who! Arf Arf! Grr! Rumble rumble! Oli Rock ahi a ho!!! Wee sing presents, "SIllyville!"

Hey all!

What a great week!

Monday, verifications, nothing special there.

Tuesday, we celebrate Elder Damián's birthday, President took us to Crepes and Waffles. So, so good. We spent all day planning the leaders' council, getting our trainings ready and getting all of the papers ready, yada yada. Nothing too exciting, just doing lots of power points.

On Wednesday, we had our leaders' council, and it went really well. We focused on pushing ourselves a little bit more, that what we're doing isn't enough. We had a good training by President, he talked about the things that the First Presidency and the 12 told the 70 last General Conference. It was all interesting stuff, and a lot of them talked about how important it is to learn how to machete someone lovingly. That's an interesting thing for them to mention, but obviously it must be an important thing for us to get better at, or they wouldn't be teaching it. Others spoke about how important it is to fast, how important faith is, lots of great things, it was a good training. After, we talked about "gavillas," no idea what the word is in English. Elder Ospina and I had a good talk with the leaders about how the work we do and the amount of people that we help is important to the Lord. There are a lot of missionaries who are "sleep walking" through the mission; whether they have success or not doesn't really matter to them. We read in Alma 26 and DyC 75, and helped the missionaries get inspired to work harder. Compared to the Area averages, our mission isn't doing too well, so we need to push ourselves more. After talking about that, we raised our "norms" in the mission-the goals that all the missionaries should have in their sectors. We raised those to try to raise the work that the missionaries do. I think that it went well, that we'll be seeing results quickly. Elder Ospina and I finished with a sweet quote from Joseph Smith, paraphrasing he says, "If you do not do your duty, the Lord will hold you accountable for those you would have saved had you done your duty. If you do your duty, it will be as if all men received the Gospel." Nice, Joseph, nailed it. It was a great meeting, though. We were able to speak frankly, but happily and energetically, getting everyone excited to work a little bit harder.

On Thursday, we had the verification of the new missionaries and their trainers from the last change to see if they're doing everything that they should be doing. We went to the Panecillo, a really pretty viewpoint. It's a hill right in the middle of the valley with a giant statue of the virgin from Revelations that is going to "stomp the snake." Really cool. The meeting went well, the gringos still stink at Spanish, but they'll get there. At night, Elder Ospina and I traveled to Otavalo to do divisions there. This was a night to remember.
There is a house in a place called Agato. Agato is known to be haunted. I didn't believe it, I wanted to see this for myself. So, we spent the night in Agato. My goodness. It is a house all by itself, all the houses around it are abandoned. There is a cemetery right in front of it. It is a badly lit house. It was a dirty house. It was a scary house. You walk in, and could right away feel a heavy, dark feeling. It was freaky. We tried playing games, singing songs, but we just felt lonely and scared. What a mistake to go there. There are stories of seeing people that aren't really there, hearing people walking around in the vacant upstairs, tapping on the window, everything. We turned the lights out to sleep, and I instantly turned into a baby girl. I woke up steadily every thirty minutes or so, completely horrified. Any noise, any movement, anything scared the pants off of me. I didn't even want to open my eyes. Someone called us at 3 in the morning, and Elder Ospina and I gave each other animos to keep going, both horrified. At last, at long, long last, the sun came out. The long night had ended, I had come out triumphant. If you want to send me a shirt that says, "I survived Agato," please do. Super scary. But, it's really pretty around there, right at the base of a giant volcano. Nailed the adventure. I hear that they're thinking of making a Ghostbusters 3, if so, sign me up for the tryouts. Boo yah.

Friday we spent in divisions, it was a good day. We talked to an atheist when we contacted, it was super sad to see him, he wasn't happy at all, complaining about everything. Having faith in something makes such a difference in the happiness of life.

Today, we went and had lunch with Dad's reference, Ana Delgado. She is super, super nice and super, super, super, super wealthy. She had tons of cool stories, and tons of great insights. She is super ready for the Gospel, hopefully we can keep visiting and teaching her. Her husband was killed in 1992, when her daughter was 6 months old, her father recently passed away, she has tons of great religious questions and already thought we needed a restoration to believing in God again, she's great. The lunch she made us was fantastic, super delicious, and we had a good lesson on the Restoration. She has a Book of Mormon and the conference edition of the Liahona, and hopefully we'll go again sometime. She was very receptive and very kind. We visited her with President, it was a very uplifting experience. With a few more visits, I could see her developing a strong testimony.

That's all that I'm going to write for now. I only used one hour for now, we're going to a baptism of some missionaries. I'll write some more later today or tomorrow.

Love you all!

Elder Thomas

Monday, January 6, 2014

"Neil was my high school rival. I was a better cheerleader than him, but he always beat me at close-hand magic." Phil Dunphey

Hey all,

Totally went to a bomb zoo today.

Another crazy week. The first week of the change is always crazy.

Monday. So, we had 4 different flights with missionaries coming in. 10:30 a.m., 4:00 p.m., 5:30 p.m., and 11:00 p.m. President had to do exit interviews in the offices all afternoon for the group going home. Usually, the new missionaries come on Tuesday, but for the holiday, we had them come on Monday. It was nuts. We went together with President at 10:30 for a group of 10 latino Elders and took them to a chapel an hour away. We didn't want to have to deal with them, so we gave them lunch then sent them with their "baby sitters," the Elders that worked nearby. President couldn't make it for the next group, so we took a taxi to the airport. At 4, 8 gringos came in, 4 sisters and 4 Elders. We left one at the airport with one of the newbies to wait for the flight at 5:30 while we went to the chapel with the other gingos. Elder Ospina and I had to drop off the bags where they were going to stay. Girls pack a ton of stuff, super heavy bags. That was our workout for the day. Everyone from the 4 and 5:30 flights eventually made it to the chapel, around 7, and we had dinner for them while the Elders that went with the baby sitters made it back to the chapel. We sent them to their hotels to sleep around 8:30, then Elder Ospina and I had to go to President's house to make it to the end of the goodbye dinner for the missionaries finishing their mission. We took pictures, yada yada, then we had to leave for the airport for a missionary and Matt's girlfriend. We made it, and had to wait FOREVER. The flight got in at 11:06, but the sister didn't come out until 12:15. We met Matt's girlfriend (now fiancé), she was nice but it is really weird to be around girls. We took a taxi with the sister, getting her home around 1:30, then went to our house. The missionaries who left stayed in our house and left at 3:00 a.m., so after taking care of that, we could sleep a little bit. It was sad to say goodbye to Elder Dearden, but not super super sad, just because we both study at BYU and I'll see him in the fall. He was a fun companion, I'll miss him, but I know that Elder Ospina and I will have a lot of fun together, as well.

Tuesday, we had to entertain the new missionaries, but we had a rule to be in the house at 5 at the latest to avoid all the vainas in the streets. So, we did some training and practices, at some food, watched some videos, it was a good time. President spoke about various things, and we had various classes on how to do things (iron, cook, not get constipated, the usual). We bought them Subway and sent them home to rest and study around 4, then we had to go the offices. On Monday, we had no time to do the verifications, so we did that on Tuesday evening. We made it home and cooked and cleaned a little bit, then at midnight we went on our roof to watch the fireworks. I hope I can send a video. It was like World War III, honestly. There was such a ridiculous amount of fireworks. The air is heavy here, so by the end, Quito was covered in smoke. But, it was awesome. In the whole night, in the whole city, they probably launched more than a thousand fireworks. It was insane, super fun. We hit the hay, and got ready for the next day.

Wednesday, we had the Mini-MTC, bascially our time to teach all of the missionaries the rules and how to teach before they get their companion. We split up in English and Spanish classes, and stuffed them full of information. It's helped a lot to have this before they get their companions, though, because there are a lot of rules they don't know and a lot of their companions don't follow the rules. We give them a heads up so they can't play the "I had no idea!" card. It's fun to be with the new missionaries. They are so excited to be here, their excitement and their spirit is contagious. It's such a fun week when we're with them. They have great ideas, and we need their spirits to keep everyone working hard. At night, we went to President's house to have the welcome dinner. I will never get sick of the Richardson's food. I have like 4 plates every time we eat there. You only live once. We sent the newbies home after eating, then had to plan for a few things at night since President was going to travel with his family. Home at 11, got to sleep.

Thursday, the trainers came. It's a quick meeting with them. We show up and split between trainers and new missionaries to give them various instructions. Elder Ospina and I were with the trainers, and we had a really good meeting with lots of great participation. Usually it's just us talking, and when we ask for comments, no one talks. This time, almost everything said was said by them, which is the best way to teach and train. We had a good Subway lunch again, and getting everyone to their sectors was a headache. There were a bunch that needed to go to different places, and we had no idea how to get there. We just put them in a taxi and hoped the taxi driver knew how to get there. We went to the offices after, and spent all night preparing informs so that we could do divisions on Friday. We got everything done around 11 and headed home to sleep.

Friday, a normal day, finally! We got up and went on a nice, long run, which felt great. We've been getting up at 5:45 every morning to be able to run longer at a really nice park, parque Carolina. We go with Elder Paz and Elder Clark, and it's really fun. We went to a district meeting here in Quito after, and spent the day in divisions with the zone leaders and a companionship that is having troubles. Elder Ospina and I want to do lots of divisions this month, each time one of us will go with the zone leaders and the other will go with a companionship that needs a little bit of help with things. Hopefully it will work out okay, and will help us to have much better leaders. This change, we have a lot of new leaders, and the focus of January is to train our leaders, so we have a lot of work to do. But, if all goes well, it will help us to have a much better mission, with a lot more success. Yay, training!

Today, was a good day, but I am really tired. We had a long week, and spent all day walking around. But, the zoo was awesome. I took tons of pictures and some videos, it was awesome. When we were going, I thought it was going to be some broken down zoo with a few big turtles and a monkey that can escape and bit your finger off. We got there, and I was super surprised. They had monkeys, big ol' turtles, pumas, jaguars, lions, more monkeys, beautiful birds, llamas, donkeys, guinea pigs, turkeys, ocelots, bears, frogs, ostriches, and tons more stuff. Plus, I didn't feel dirty there! It was a clean place! Very fun P-day activity, probably the most fun thing that I've done since I've been here. I just want to sleep now, to be honest. I feel so tired. I think the whole week's tiredness hit me today.

Sorry that I didn't include too many spiritual things this week, but I have had no time to study personally nor time to work in my sector yet. But, I would like to include what I could about some spiritual moments in the week, because we always have some, we may just need to search for them. It's interesting how easy it becomes to tell when someone is being obedient and when they aren't. With missionaries, you really come to feel when a missionary is being a good missionary, or when he is being dumb. I've learned to listen to the Spirit in that way. I was on divisions with a missionary who has had some struggles with obedience in his mission, and who claims to have changed. I could feel right away that something wasn't right. We were able to talk, and while he has improved in many things, he still has a way to go. We set some good goals, hopefully he'll get better quickly. I'm sure you can tell, too, when you're talking to a good missionary and a not so good one. The good ones just have a good light about them, and good feeling when you're with them. And, they have a real smile, they're really happy. When I see good missionaries like that, it makes me so happy and so hopeful for the work that we are doing. That's one thing that I've learned to do with the Spirit; tell when things are okay and when they aren't.

Another thing that I've been thinking about is how happy the Gospel makes everyone. Nidya got baptized and confirmed last weekend, and it was a great experience for her. She said that after her confirmation, she could feel a weight being lifted off of her, the pain of her mother's death, and that she knew that she would get off the trial of seeing your mother pass away. She made us a really good pasta, too, which is a bonus. But there was a very visible difference between the Nidya on Friday, coming back from her mother´s funeral, and the Nidya on Sunday, baptized and confirmed. The Gospel really can heal us after hardships, it is the best way to be healed, actually. I've probably said this many times, but it's something that I learn and appreciate more and more every day. I am so happy for the Gospel. The more I study it, the more I apply it, and the more I share it with other people, the happier I am, and the happier other people are, as well. What a blessing it is to be an instrument in this process of the Lord. I hope that you are looking for ways to make other people happier by applying the Gospel in your lives and theirs. Often the best way to share the Gospel is to serve others.

With the new missionaries, we had a testimony meeting that was wonderful, very spiritual, lots of people crying, especially the sisters. I was able to bear my testimony to this new group of young pups, and I felt so blessed to be able to do so. A lot of things in my testimony are things that I've know for a long time, a few things are new, and a lot of things are simply stronger than they were a year and a half ago. I think more than anything, I've learned how to apply a testimony more than anything. I've had a testimony for a long time, clearly it needed strengthening, but here is where I think I really learned how to live what I believe. More than not drinking, not smoking, not being in bad places, but really living the Gospel. Standing up, speaking boldly, inviting lovingly, all great things that I now know how to do. The mission really is such a blessing, and I am so grateful for both the testimony I now have and its application in my life. The new missionaries teach us a lot by the testimonies they bring, even though they can't speak Spanish yet, the can invite the Spirit.

Well, there's another week down! Crazy, but good. It's good to be busy, it makes life better. I hope that you all have a great week, learn lots, and work hard. I love you all tons and wish you the best in all that you do! Until next week, adeiu (I have no idea how to spell that word).


Elder Thomas

P.S. Those monkeys wanted to pull me in and eat me, pretty sweet.