Monday, March 10, 2014

"Some people ask if I'd rather be feared or loved...Is it too hard to ask for both? I want people to be afraid of how much they love me." Michael Scott

Hey all,

Did we have a book called "The Book of Virtues" with a buffalo on it or am I going crazy?

These last 8 or 9 days have felt like one long day. It's been non-stop motion with a few hours to sleep every now and again. We're calling this Operación Matacuy (Operation Kill Guinnea Pig), hoping to make the situation a little happier. We also made FBI secret agent badge to feel cooler. We really have been detectives for about a week. I am writing down every detail in a digital journal. I was going to write it by hand, but that would have taken way too long. When the book is done, you can buy it for $20 at Deseret Book. It'll be under the title, "Operación Matacuy," I would imagine under the bestsellers list. It's about 12 typed pages long so far, so it'll be a good read. It is a sad situation, hopefully the Elders don't become inactive. We're hoping to send them home tomorrow, but we're still waiting on approval from Salt Lake City. We've done reports, we've gathered evidence, we've done about everything there is to do, even raiding missionary apartments. I think we should purpose a CSI:Quito show on CBS. I could see it being a hit.

I haven't even been able to study that much these last few weeks, which is really sad. But, I did get to study a little bit, which is enough for now. I'm almost done with Alma this time through the Book of Mormon, reading the war chapters is pretty inspiring right now. We're in a definite Lamanite vs. Nephite situation right now. I wanted to go out and buy swords, but President didn't seem too excited about that idea. Maybe next time. Moroni was such a great guy. He had all the power in the world among the Nephites, but he never misused it; he never really even wanted to use it, just when they were being attacked and their freedoms were at stake. Everything described about him is what we look for in a good leader, it's always a great lesson to learn about him and how he worked in his position as the leader of the Nephite armies.

I also read in that Principles of Leadership book the lesson about being happy as a leader, which was a perfect one to read during this whole situation. There is a wonderful, wonderful talk included in the lesson by Elder Wirthlin. He was such a sweet old man, his talks always uplift and make you feel much happier afterwards. This talk is called "Lessons Learned in the Journey of Life." He gave it as a BYU fireside in 1999, and I really, really enjoyed. He gives 5 tips to enjoying our journey through life. They are:

1.) Have faith in Heavenly Father
2.) Set righteous goals
3.) Work to accomplish your goals
4.) Magnify your callings
5.) Enjoy the journey (he mentions learning to laugh at yourself)

The last point was a stand out for me. He talks about how our happiness is really always our choice. We can always choose to be happy, we just have to actually do it. I'm going to paste a lot of this section so that you can read it.

We have so much to smile about, be happy about, yes, even to laugh about.
So many of us are always waiting to be happy. “If only I could graduate, if only I could afford a car, if only I could get married . . .”
For too many, happiness is just over the horizon, never reachable. Every time we climb one hill, happiness beckons just beyond the next.
It is a terrible thing always to be waiting for tomorrow, always depending on tomorrow, always excusing our todays because we are sure that only in the future will we possess the things that will fulfill us.
Don’t wait for tomorrow. Don’t wait for the right job, the right house, the right salary, the right dress size. Be happy today. Be happy now.
Abraham Lincoln said, “Most folks are about as happy as they make their minds up to be”

Good ol' Abe. Always knew what to say. Here's another chunck.

Make up your mind to be happy—even when you don’t have money, even when you don’t have a clear complexion, even when you don’t have the Nobel Prize. Some of the happiest people I know have none of these things the world insists are necessary for satisfaction and joy. Why are they happy? I suppose it is because they don’t listen very well. Or they listen too well—to the things their hearts tell them. They glory in the beauty of the earth. They glory in the rivers and the canyons and the call of the meadowlark. They glory in the love of their families, the stumbling steps of a toddler, the wise and tender smile of the elderly.
They glory in honest labor. They glory in the scriptures. They glory in the presence of the Holy Ghost.
One thing I know for certain: the time we have here goes by far too quickly. Don’t waste any more time sitting on the bench watching life pass you by.
Can I give you one other piece of advice? Be willing to laugh at yourself.

And one more chunk.

George Bernard Shaw said, “Life isn’t about finding yourself. Life is about creating yourself.” Don’t worry about searching for who you are; focus your energies on creating the kind of person you want to be! You will discover that as you pursue that journey you will not only “find yourself,” but chances are you will be pleasantly surprised and proud of the person you find along the way.
Do not procrastinate a minute longer. Every moment is precious. Determine tonight that you will make of your lives something remarkable!

Really great things that he said. I've realized that so much in my mission, how happiness really is a decision. So many hard things and unhappy things do happen in any mission, tons of hard things, to be honest. But, the best missionaries are the happiest missionaries. They aren't happy because they've magically made the hard things disappear, they just grow to understand how the Gospel allows us to always be happy. Agency is a great thing, we just don't realize how great sometimes. That's one of the great gifts of life--we are given time to figure out how to effectively use our agency. It's takes some people longer than others to figure it out, but if we try to figure it out using the principles of the Gospel, we usually make some fast progress.

Dante and Ronny are doing really well. Ronny gave a talk this week and Dante was assigned one for next week. They've really become part of the ward, it's fun to see them with their group of friends now. Dante is facing some pretty tough opposition, but he's doing a great job fighting against it. His life before knowing us was not a great one moral-wise. His old friends want old Dante still, but he's fighting really hard to be a new Dante. He's a great example to a lot of people in the ward. He really turned his life around, and you can see his happiness that wasn't there before he started coming to church.

We had another miracle this week, another if we do our part, God does his moment. We have had not one second to work in our sector for over a week. We didn't even go to church last week because we had to go to Otavalo. It's been crazy. One of Ronny's friends has come to church with him for 2 weeks now, but because of all this going on, we haven't been able to meet with him. We've tried, but it never worked out. Well, today, his fellowshipper called us over after church and said, "Hey, this kid wants to get baptized! Where have you been? Teach him!" So, after the church meeting, we sat down at taught him a few things. At the end of the lesson, we asked him if he wanted to be baptized next Saturday, and he basically said, "Well, duh! I've wanted to get baptized since Ronny got baptized!" We were very humbled and very happy after that experience. We had no time whatsoever to take care of our sector, so the Lord took care of it for us. We feel very blessed by all of the great things that the Lord has given us in our time working in the offices. This truly is His work, and He takes care of things when we can't. He just asks us to always do our best, then we can leave the rest to Him.

I am sorry that I don't have any cool thoughts or experiences to share right now, this whole Operación Matacuy has been taking up so much of our time. One day I'll be able to sleep. One day. But, I've still been able to run every day during this. I'd rather sleep, but running helps me stay awake even when I don't have a lot of energy.

I just want to close bearing my testimony of this work, of this Church. I know that what I am doing is what the Lord would have me do. I know that what I teach and share every day is the truth. My doubts of anything shrink with every page of the Book of Mormon that I read, with every light I see grow in an investigator's eye, with every person I grow to know and love. I know that God lives and that His Son, Jesus Christ, is our Savior. He suffered and died for us, and now He lives for us. As we follow Him, we grow to be better people and to be happier people. There is no better thing in this life than to preach the Gospel, whether it be as a missionary, a family member or a simple church goer. We can share the Gospel in all that we do, and that is the principle thing we should strive to do in life. I know that this is the truth, and I know that this is the pathway to happiness. Every sacrifice made is worth it, and when we do it for long enough, it stops being a sacrifice. Living the Gospel in the most intelligent thing that we can do. I pray that we can all find ways to live it better every day.

Hopefully next week will be more calm and I'll have some cool things to write about and can write a letter a little bit longer. But, I'm not getting my hopes up.

I love you all tons! Be smart and happy and go to the temple a lot. Read your scriptures, pray always, and eat lots of cookies. Life's short, might as well eat cookies.

Con amor,

Elder Thomas

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