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

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