Monday, May 19, 2014

"It's not who I am underneath, but what I do that defines me." Batman, diga

Hey all,

Well, if there is one lesson to be learned, it is that dead dogs smell really bad.

This week flew by for me. These next few weeks are going to fly by because we don't have any down time whatsoever. Especially with the visit from Elder Waddell, we're going to busy every single day to help make sure that everything runs smoothly. We've gotta have lunch, get everyone there a half hour early, have the meeting, finish on time, we have meeting with the ward councils at night, it is a lot to do. And, probably not a good idea to mess up. If we do, we'll just blame it on the new guy. Problem solved.

We went to the coast for my last time this week to do the interviews. I ate my last encebollado there, and President let us go to my favorite lookout point before going back. We have some good missionaries out there, and the work is finally starting to pick up in the coast. Before, it was known for being a very successful zone, but the work and the excitement started dying down. There were some problems with disobedience, not just with the missionaries but with the members, too, and now the stake is suffering quite a bit. But, the work will go on, we made some changes, and we're seeing improvements in the stake. We are focusing a lot there on using the ward council to work together to build the stake back up, and it is working. It is a pretty area, killer hot, which can lead some people to fall into temptations. We send the obedient missionaries there, and we're seeing a good change.

That is probably one of my favorite things about being able to travel around so much with President is that we get to see each missionary at least once a month. That allows us to really see the progress of each missionary, which is a real blessing. Some missionaries don't really progress because they don't want to be obedient and they are problems their whole missions. Some missionaries make slow, but constant progress which can only be seen with patience and with several months. And some missionaries come so ready and skyrocket in their progress. It is also interesting to see how our initial feelings of the new missionaries are, and how accurate they usually are. But it really is a blessing to go to a zone, teach them how to do something, and come back in a month and see how it has helped them to serve better. I love that. Everyone can progress, and the blessing of being here for 7 months now is that truly every missionary has the potential to be great, we just need to be patient and guide them along the way.

On Thursday and Friday, we had interviews here in Quito. They went well. Interview month is crazy. Of the three things we do, interviews, zone conferences and specialized trainings, my least favorite month is interview month. It is just so much to do. The other meetings are one, maybe two meetings a week, but with interviews, President needs 10-15 minutes with each of the 185 missionaries here, which creates the need to have a lot of meetings. Plus, with Elder Waddell's visit for the next week, which is a great blessing, we have to squeeze in even more meetings in less days than usual. It is a lot of stuff, and a lot of saying the same thing many times. I don't get bored of talking about the Book of Mormon, but the other stuff, yep. But, interviews are highlights for the missionaries and helps out President a lot to better know how to help the missionaries out. So, while it may not be the most exciting month, it is probably one of the most important that we have.

I've wanted to get better organized with all of the things I've been studying for a long time but, shocker, I haven't had any time. Today I finally had time to go and buy stuff to get all of the talks I have well organized. I'm gonna make a few folders and have the talks by speakers. What has happened is that I have read a ton of talks, and I just throw them where and can't remember where they are or accidentally throw them away. Now, with the Folder300, I'll know where everything is and be able to lug it around with me while we travel to be able to study them more and more. I love studying so much, not just Gospel stuff, but everything. I've told you guys a lot that that is one thing that I don't like about being in the offices--in the past two weeks we've only had 3 days to study. But, it's what the Lord needs from us now I guess! I'm excited to be organized. I figured that those things should be bought with personal money since it isn't really a proselyting need, so I took out $20 dollars to buy a few organizational things. I hope that's okay.

I was reading a great talk by my man Neal. Kid nails it every time. It is called, "The Pathway of Discipleship." He gave it, I think, shortly after finding out that he had cancer. After events like that, I think people get more spiritual, and he even admits that it's true in his talk. He talks about how if we realize that we are truly immortal in our destiny, we would do better to take eternally important decisions in our lives. His whole talk is about how that mentality will help us to become better disciples, better servants, better friends, better everything. I really loved his talk. He gives such wonderful talks. There is a lot I could cite from it, but I'll just put on this one quote:

In that cumulative process, today’s small inflection for good adds to what becomes tomorrow’s mountain of character.

Little things really do make a big, big difference. Gotta love Elder Maxwell.

Oh, by the way, it was really nice to talk with you guys on Mother's Day. Good to see you guys. I wanted to thank you for always being appropriate in our calls home, all four of them. Many of my companions don't choose to be too obedient on call day and talk to their families for 2 hours or so. I've loved that in every call, when we hit the 45 minute mark, Dad is the one who reminds us that it is time to wrap it up. Plus, it would have been easy to be "trunky" for the whole call and just talk about things that would happen as I come home, but we focused on mission stuff and your life stuff, but not really too much about me going home. I really appreciate things like that. Having a supportive family that talks about my mission and not my coming home helps me to work even harder. It is a great blessing that not everybody has. I am grateful for you help and your encouragement to keep going, and when the time comes, we'll see each other again. But for now, there is no reason to talk too much about that.

I was pondering the other day on some of the many things that I've learned on my mission. For me, being obedient and being diligent has felt very natural and easy my whole mission, and I have never dwelt on thoughts about the end and going home. I was thinking about why that has come easily for me and why maybe some others struggle with that. I think I hit an "ah-hah!" moment early on in my mission.

I think a big problem is that missionaries view the mission as a two year pause of their life; they leave things behind and their mission is a two year, short lived but happy life, then they go home and get back to the old things. There is your mission life and your "actual" life. I think a key to losing yourself in the work is to realize that this isn't a different time in your life where you spend a special kind of temporary service; it is a part of your life, your real life, and it is just the start of a lot more time serving. The only real difference is that we get to serve every hour of the day, which is a great blessing. This is not a separate life; it is really just the beginning of a life of devoted service. Having a mentality like that takes away the "if I can just make it two years, I'll have my stuff again" mindset and replaces it with thoughts of, "if I can do this right, I'll be ready to serve the Lord however He asks for my whole life." I think that too often missionaries trap themselves in thinking about two years, when two years really has nothing to do with it. It's just the time we get to serve in a place that is far away. The service never ends, so there is really no need to think about the end. I think that is one key to being a good missionary, and something that many people can't quite get.

That was pretty deep, diga.

Well, with all of the travels and whatnot, I didn't study too much so I don't have too much to share or tell you this week. This week with Elder Waddell I should have some sweet stuff to share. I hope he likes to joke around or it's going to be a really uncomfortable week. I should probably say something about the prayer he said in Conference, too, to gain some brownie points there.

Oh, yeah, one more thing. We sort of got a little crazy in the apartment one night, and in self defense, I may or may not have broken the shower hose. I know that that sparks many good questions, but we'll just leave it at that. I may need to pay for that...but it wasn't my fault! It was four against one, I just did what I could to survive.

Anyways, I love you guys tons! We'll talk in a week!

Con amor,

Elder Thomas

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