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.

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