Monday, January 13, 2014

January 13, 2014

Holy moly!  Lots of people wrote me today!  Wohoo!  Sorry if this letter has to be a little shorter, but I was pretty darn excited to hear from so many people!  This week we had FOUR MORE first time less actives and 4 investigators in church!  WOOT WOOT WOOT!  But we failed a little bit in some other goals... embarrassingly.  For example, we have to maintain a BUSCAD of 150 each week.  That`s a mix of contacts (1), contacted references (2), and first lessons (5).  We always, easily get AT LEAST 150.  This week was 110.  Yikes.  Don`t worry, I`m not number obsessed, I just wanted to explain more about how the goals work in our mission.  There`s another goal that is MED.  Contacts (!), contacted references (10), lessons with member (15), and other lessons (19).  We always need at least 400, which is easily obtainable. This week we had 338.  Eeeek.  But sometimes things happen.  Like how sometimes you have to legalize yourself in Chile and waste an entire day downtown.  Or sometimes you try to reactivate a less active and take her to the temple grounds to escape her mentally abusive alcoholic husband for a couple hours.  Or sometimes, elders in your ward have three baptisms, and you invite your investigators to go so they can feel the Spirit and want to get baptized too. And so sometimes you have crummy numbers.  But sometimes the Lord understands.

We had CAMBIOS this week! And we both stay together.   
I saw Hermana Antunez this week. If I was a little depressed after the island, NADA QUE VER.  She fell into a serious depression, like had to go to psychologists and take pills.  Poor girl.  She`s lost a ton of weight.  I have too. Thank goodness.   Anyway,   we were so in love with those people, that, when we had to leave, we just couldn`t give them up.  The sister that they sent out to the island because she was so sick in Santiago (the heat was killing her) didn't get better.  They thought that she would do better on the island because it is so much cooler out there.    She has to change missions to Osorno, where it`s super cold, almost Antarctica.  They are sending the trainer of Sister Castillo to the island to replace her which makes me SO INCREDIBLE HAPPY.

We are working hard still with the less actives.  The M family, where the husband is an alcoholic and now has an entire week sober, went to church yesterday.  And the wife who is so hurt because he has "another woman" with children thanks to his addiction and stupidity.  It`s a mess.  But we see them EVERY SINGLE DAY.  And things are changing.  And we are so happy.  And if we are that happy, I can`t imagine how the Lord must feel.  I love less actives.  So much.  Because they already know.  They just sorta... forgot.  

I know it`s lame for missionaries to give challenges to their families, but seeing as how I pretty much never do it... it`s time for just one.  If you could please search out a less-active family and get them to come to dinner this month.  And love them.  So much.  That would be AWESOME.

I love you all so much and rejoice in your successes!
Thanks for celebrating my birthday!  We went to a noche de hogar, and the family surprised me with a cake!  Much love,
Sister Thomas

January 6, 2014 Happy New Year!

Oh my dear family I just love you so so much it´s crazy!

I am just so happy!  This Sunday we had 4 frist-timer less actives and three investigators in church and I saw a COMPLETE change, turn around, however you wanna say it in my companion, and I have been having a blast despite the heat, and I am so happy, and the list goes on and on!

HAPPY BIRTHDAY TO BRENNA!! YOU´RE ALMOST AN ADULT!  A REAL LIVE ADULT!  Buy something from the television for me!  Never actually completed my goal with that one. (Mara always said, when she turned 18, she would buy something off an infomercial)  

I seriously have not been able to get over how beautiful you all are.  I have the most beatuiful family in all the  world.  I´ve never seen a family so beautiful and united and peaceful and happy.  If you only knew what it's like to walk around all day in the hot sun and the only houses you enter are ruined, torn homes with drug addicts and spouses that hit and children that scream and husbands with various women.  Of course, that´s the beauty of mission work.  That God prepares such ruined, torn homes and allows us to enter and allows the Spirit to change their lives.  I wouldn´t change my role for anything in the world.  But still. I´m so grateful that  my family doesn´t require that, that you are all trying, striving with all of your might to fulfill the commandments of God on the daily.  Reading, praying, going to church, watching your mouth, watching what you put in your body, watching what you do, thinking before you act or speak, not beatting the crud out of each other or getting so drunk that you lose a new job once a week.  I don´t know why I have been so blessed.  But something I do know is that everyone who serves a mission has a blessed family.  And for that, I am very grateful. 

This week I got to do an intercambio in RENCA!!!   RENCA LA LLEVA!!!!   It was so darn fun. Knowning all the streets, all the investigators. I led my leaders to less active families and investigators that they had never met and that were SUPER READY to progress and it was a day just absolutely full of miracles.

Another miracle came in the form of a joven named Juan.  He´s awesome.  We´re starting a new focus sector... which means a whole lot of street contacts.  We´re trying to do as little door knocking as is at all possible.  Welpt, one day we were searching out someone to invite unto Christ... ya know, the typical... and I saw about the least likely candidate in the whole world.  A young, skinny girl covered in piercings and tattoos and VERY BLUE hair standing outside of a botilleria... that´s like where you buy alcohol.  So, obviously, I contacted her.  As we were talking, out came her best friend Juan with a bottle of alcohol.  We kept talking and they lived far away so I was like hey!  There is a park around her close by I think, do you wanna go find it and share a message with us.  And they said, ya po!  So we went.  And while they drank a little bit, we taught the Restauration.... and then agreed to another lesson.  And in the next lesson, HE CAME!  Juan at least.  And then we invited him to go to church, and you know what... HE CAME!  MIRACLE CHILD.  He´s 18 years old. His mom hates him, his dad is a drug addict, he lives with his grandparents, one of whom died last year... and it´s not a very happy place there either.  So he tries to work, but his lack of education limits him a lot.  So he´s pretty much not very super happy.  And I AM SO HAPPY!!!  All I see is my dear Juanito in a white shirt and tie next year serving in Highlands Ranch and changing his life forever.  I can´t even wait.

This week we had zone conference. It was AMAZING. I tell you what, those things are so wonderful and inspired and downright fun.  
Anyway.  I´ve thought a lot about my time at home lately.  I just wanted to thank you all for having put up with me and for having treateed me with so much love and patience.  I will owe it to each of you forever.

With love bursting!

Sister Thomas

December 30, 2013 Christmas Skype

We could easily say that Wednesday (She is talking about Christmas Day when we Skyped with her) was one of the best days of my whole entire life.  It was awesome.  You say that you saw some sort of light in me... HA!  You have no idea of the light that I saw in each of you.  It was truly a miracle for me to sit there and watch you.  I could have just stared at you for hours in amazement.  You`re all just so beautiful.  It`s breathtaking and indescribable.   Just perfection.  And I`ve never felt so happy.  Some say that they get all lame and trunky when they speak with their family, but I got WAY WAY WAY more motivated to work hard so that you all can deserve the blessings.  IT was awesome.  I`m just so so so happy happy happy!!!!
Interesting story.  As you all are fully aware, I`m a bit of a perfectionist.  Just a bit... right?  Right. Welpt, before speaking with you, and even now sometimes, I was really struggling  because I felt like I just wasn`t progressing as a missionary.  The lessons weren`t up to the level of power that I needed them to be, my thoughts weren`t focused entirely on Christ, and there were no investigators.  We walk around in the extreme heat all day.  Maybe, I thought, I`m really just doing things wrong and should not even be a missionary.  Of course, such thoughts, one realizes, can only come from the adversary, but when one is so confused as that, one begins to question if maybe really it is true.  
Then, two miracles happened.
1. I showed up to Sacrament meeting and one of the speakers had not shown up.  The bishop asked me to fill the time.  I heartily agreed.  As I sat there at the piano, taking the sacrament, I began to think about what I would speak on. What my ward really, truly needs to hear.  What Jesus would speak on if He walked into the chapel in that moment.  And I thought about lesson one that we teach almost every single day.  About the restoration of the gospel of Jesus Christ.  As that thought entered my mind, I thought about the other 7 missionaries and all of the returned missionaries in the audience. I thought they might laugh, they might tune out my talk.  But no, it was very clear that this was the topic that the ward needed to hear.  I thought about the talk from Elder Holland that I did not get to see, but which Hermana Essig passed us her notes. He had taught that the restoration should be taught with such power that we leave the knees of our investigators shaking, that they need to sit down because they are left to weak to stand, that if there is no powerful lesson one, there will NEVER be a lesson two, but that we must be qualified to give such a lesson. And so, I began to pray  hard that the Lord would qualify me to give this talk and truly get to the hearts of the members, investigators, less actives, etc. that were in the audience.  I stood up, and began to speak. I testified with all of the energy of my heart, and I taught the restoration of the gospel of Jesus Christ right there from the pulpit.  There was a beautiful silence that is rarely found in this young ward full of screaming children.  
Well, later that day, not a single person, not even my companion said anything about the talk... so I figured it was just average... again that I was just an average missionary. And that I would never truly be able to realize the power spoken of by  Elder Holland.
This Thursday, we had missionary coordination. One elder in our ward began to speak about an investigator that they have progressing toward baptism. She had told them, that she had really enjoyed going to church with them that Sunday and that, when Sister Thomas was speaking, she had seen an aura of light surrounding her.

So... maybe the Lord did qualify me after all.  Even the averagest of missionaries can be qualified by the Lord.  And that`s really pretty cool.
And miracle number 2.... I spoke with you. Every day I pray for you, that you can be strengthened and receive blessings. It was so very clear, that you have been blessed in every possible way, and that the work, even that of  lowly me, brings very real blessings to families.
It`s interesting to think about the goals for the new year, and think about how one of mine is return to my home with honor.  Can you believe I`ll be going home this year?  And so soon?!  I can hardly believe it.  Not gonna lie, i wouldn`t mind staying here forever... but that`s ok.  Progression in real life is good stuff too.

December 17, 2013

FIRST OFF:  HAPPY BIRTHDAY DADDDDDDDD!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!  You old man you!  I hope you celebrated deliciously!
2.  I finally found Elder Jenson!  He´s not in my zone, but yesterday we had a Christmas luncheon with the Essigs and a few other zones.  Nice guy.  Good elder.  His name is in the mission news weekly.
3.  Well, here I am in the San Francisco ward nearly dying of heat exhaustion.  I am still in shock that I am here.  I am not going to lie.  It was a rough couple of days at first.  I fell into a complete culture shock and an extremely intensive sadness that I´ve never felt before.  It was not very good... but all is well now!  I´m ready to work.  Right now I am in a trio.  SIster Waters extended her mission and leaves in the middle of the change (2 days after Christmas), so she is the senior companion for a few more days.  Sister Castillo recently finished her training and is a rockstar and more a senior companion than either of the two of us because she knows the sector like the back of her hand, having begun here.  We don´t know anything: streets, investigators, members, less actives, etc... so it´s been kind of interesting letting her direct.  But she does a great job.  I´ve really been quite impressed.  Both of them have a little to work on with obedience... but I figure a good example is the best medicine... unless that medicine doesn´t work and you need to go into surgery.
4.  Speaking of surgery, my feet have absolutely been killing me since I got here, and so, naturally, I began to freak out.  Talked to Sister Essig.  What she suggested didn´t work.  So yesterday I went to the mission doctor.  Turns out I have a new problem that, thank goodness, has nothing to do with the neuroma or even nerves in general.  The problem is that I have two opposing blood problems at the same time... so I can´t take drugs
 for one because it will make the other worse.  You know how in the cold my feet and hands turn freaky white and I can´t feel anything?  Even if it´s not really even cold?  Welpt... turn out that in extreme heat, instead of sucking the blood out, it all puddles down in my feet, inflaming them like balloons and making it rather difficult to walk.  The tragic solution?  Compression socks.  Why tragic?  Welpt... when it´s 90 degrees outside and you´re questioning why you had to go and make sacred covenants with God when you could have been wearing a bathing suit around town... black, knee length compression socks are hardly welcome. (I hope everyone knows she is completely joking when she says this) Either way.  I´m going to buy them (likely today) and start to sweat.  A lot.
5.  Yes I received the small suitcase. (A man in our stake travels to Santiago for work every couple of months so he asked if he could deliver anything to Mara.  I packed a small carryon suitcase with some new skirts, Christmas presents, and snacks.  It was waiting for Mara at the mission home when she returned from the island) So wonderfully thoughtful.  Again, with all of my favorite things and JUST IN TIME for the heat with some wonderfully flowly skirts and shirts that will ensure that my whole body doesn´t fry.  So thank you.  I have not read a single note from either package so that I can open them on Christmas day, as well as the wrapped gifts.  I think I´ll save those for my birthday.  What the birthday.  Can you believe that I´m going to be 20?  Ummm what the old.
6.  I need you to set up a SKYPE ACCOUNT!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!  AND DO NOT DO NOT DO NOT forget to send me the password and username and whatever else. WE will likely be talking at about 4:00 here.  Not sure what time it is there.  I think 2:00?    Please don´t forget. (Like she has to ask us not to forget that!!! Funny girl!!!)  I get 40 minutes to talk... including the problems that skype ALWAYS has. (Church wide rule- all mission presidents received a letter from the First Presidency stating missionaries are only allowed to talk for 30-40 minutes either by phone of Skype)  Go to your best internet place and stay there.  Oh wait.  You have internet in your house.  Ya po but anyway thanks and let me know this Monday si o si.
6.  I´m truly sorry to hear about what happened at Arapahoe. I will be praying for everyone this week.  Stay strong!

I love you all so so much!!
Sister Thomas

December 9, 2013- Changes on the Island

Mara told us last week that she would be transferred off the island sooner than later.  Initially, her companion was transferred back to Santiago and Mara was made senior companion with a new sister coming out to the island.  Well, her current companion who is absolutely terrified to fly, basically refused to fly back to Santiago alone so Mara offered to fly back with her, giving up her chance to stay on the island.  So, two new sisters came out to replace both of them.  She is super sad to leave the island and the people but she is also looking forward to being back in Santiago.  She will now serve as senior companion in her new area. 

  This week has been crazy!  On Friday, the new sisters came in.

And with them came your package!!!!!!!!!!!!  The one from grandma has not arrived, but we opened yours and shared with everyone an early Christmas.  It was so thoughtful.  I haven`t read the notes. I decided that those I can take with me and read on Christmas day.  Candy corn, peach rings, chocolate, and fruit snacks. Couldn`t even believe how well you know me.  Not to mention cosmetic things that we so DESPERATELY needed.  We`ve wanted one of those little spongey things since day one on the island.  Thanks so so so so so much for your love and thoughtfulness!

So...the new sisters.  Sister Casique from Peru, and the other is Utahn, Sister Pederson.  The four of us live in our very very teeny cabin.  We sleep on the uncommonly hard and cold floor... or rather... we lie there and pray that God ends the night quickly.  It`s been a little difficult with them here. The people here sort of, accidentally fell in love with us... and they were not quite ready for an abrupt change.  Some investigators say that they are never going to attend when we leave because they love us to much... and this is bad.  Very bad.  So we`re working hard to make sure that the work we have done here continues upward when we leave.  From what we understand, we will be heading out Wednesday. But the honest truth is that, here, one never knows what the future may hold.

Church yesterday was the best darn church in the history of history.  Gladys, an investigator who we absolutely adore with all of our hearts, came to church.  Patricia, a member who was Relief Society President for 17 years and then went inactive for a very very long time came to church.  You can find the story of Patricia and her also inactive brother Adrian if you type in Isla Juan Fernandez (or maybe it`s Robinson Crusoe) in It`s awesome.  But even with their miraculous story, they both went inactive. But regardless!  She came!  And BRUNO!!!!!!!!!!!  Loco Bruno also came, though he came late.  Why?  Because this weekend a giant navy ship came in, bringing tons of specialist doctors to the island like what they do in third world countries. It was the coolest thing ever.  My companion has a skin problem on her hands that the incompetent doctor tried to burn off and made much worse and so we got to go!  We got in this little tiny boat that absolutely FLEW across the waters to the giant naval ship and we had A BLAST. When we got there... turned out that the appointment was on land and that we had been misinformed.  It was the best misinformation I`ve ever received.  Who cares about burned hands when you can fly like a speed racer to a navy ship? So.  Awesome.  

Anyway, we are getting ready to head out this Wednesday. I`ve never been so sad to leave something behind.  I love the people here so much.  As if they were my own children.  Maybe that sounds creepy.  but that`s how I feel.  And that`s how I try to view people.  When I view them as if they were my own children, I desire even more their salvation and try to do everything and anything possible to make sure they understand the message that we are carrying to all the world.  I`ve been getting scared to go back to Santiago.  they say it`s unbelievably hot, but more than that, I`m worried about all the pressure that there is now. Because President Essig is ending soon, he`s really putting the pedal to the metal and whoo!  It scares me.  But it`s a good scare.  As the Lord`s representative, I`m certain that what he requires and expects of us is what the Lord requires and expects of us and has revealed to His servant.  I`m scared, but excited to get working and feel a little bit more like part of the mission.  Should Be fun!
Keep up the good work!  Lots of love!
Sister Thomas

This is a little extra personal note that Mara wrote to me.  

Want to know something cool?  Yesterday, I also taught the Joseph Smith lesson!  The teacher told us that she would be unable to attend church, and so I immediately volunteered. It was cool to be teaching and thinking that we were teaching the same lesson at almost the same time.  I have never once put in contacts - only wear glasses occasionally, so no, don`t worry about that.  Tell grandma that the Chirinos, when they receive the package, will retrieve it and put the mission office address and send it to Santiago.  No worries.  Hahahaha Justin told me that his friends thought he looked like Peter Parker.  I`d love to see a picture!  How cute! (Justin got glasses and told Mara all about them)
Love you!