Monday, December 28, 2015

Changes and Christmas Highlights

December 28, 2015

Hey Fam! This has probably the most eventful week I've had while on
the mission. The eventfulness started a few days earlier than
anticipated when on Tuesday I got a call from the Zone Leaders telling
my companion and me to pack our stuff. One of the Elders in the Tongan
ward had separated his Achilles' tendon from the bone while playing
basketball and he had to go home for surgery. Since there weren't any
other tri-pans in the mission, Elder Andrew and I made a tri-pan with
Elder Sanders-Smith as well as moved into his apartment and we are now
covering both wards.

If this had happened in any other ward besides the Tongan ward I would
have been a bit upset, two of the reasons being: our old apartment had
some really cool Elders in it and the Rocky Butte ward had been
combined like two months earlier and the work really suffered because of
it. But I'm WAY stoked to be in the Tongan ward and I think we'll be
able to do some really good work in both wards.

The very next day was the Tongan ward Christmas party and I think the
videos will sum up the ward pretty well ha (yeah that's the primary
doing the whip). I don't think they sang a single Christmas song
during the entire event! During the party and over the next couple of
days in the Tongan ward I ate for the first time: clams, oysters,
boiled lamb, raw fish soup, octopus, taro, and lobster.

Below I'll list the highlights of the 24th 25th and 26th of December-

Christmas Eve. It was a pretty normal day until the evening when we
had two dinners. The first dinner was with the Walworth family who is
a German family in the Rocky Butte ward. They literally spent like all
day cooking this German feast for us, and it was delicious! Right after
that we drove to a Tongan family's house who had signed up to feed the
Tongan Elders ha! They bought us like 5 pizzas and three veggie trays
and three fruit trays and a platter of probably 130 cookies. After we
were completely stuffed, we were able to share a spiritual thought
with the family, and the Father started crying and told us how much he
appreciated missionaries and the sacrifices that we make. After that
we were able to drive home and get a way cool view of the city I've
never seen before. Then we read scriptures in the apartment. Idk, it
was just a really good day.

Christmas Day. This was a way good day. It started in the morning when
we woke up at 6:30 and of course opened gifts first thing! By far the
earliest I have opened gifts on Christmas morning haha. Then we ate
cinnamon rolls, got together with the district and went to the church
to FaceTime. FaceTime was by far the highlight. After that we just
visited a lot of members and had a lot of food. I got closer to a food
coma that day than I think I ever have. Seriously. The best dinner we
had that day was with Tony I'oni and his family. He signs up on the
dinner calendar like once a week because "he really needs the
blessings." On Christmas he cooked like 10 crabs and 10 lobsters and a
couple racks of ribs and stir-fry and rice and a ton of seafood and
cake and ice cream. Wow! Christmas was awesome.

26th of December. It was quite a normal day actually. Probably the
highlight was when the Mower family rang our apartment doorbell and
dropped off my birthday package from home! Ha it was hilarious, they
even wrote up a birthday song to sing to me. For dinner, both wards
fell through so we ended up going to a Ohanah grill and getting salmon
and coconut cake. But to be honest the best part of my birthday
happened this morning when I opened my email and saw emails from all
the people I care about!

To sum it all up, this week was crazy and the church is still true. My
iPad has 5% battery because I forgot to charge it so I'm sorry I can't
really respond to anyone today.
Love you guys, have a great new year!

S/O to Daniel Cornelius who had his birthday yesterday!

Thank you so much for all the birthday messages!

~Elder Thomas

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Why Proselyting During Christmas Time is the Best

December 21, 2015

Hey Family, It’s been a really good week out here in Oregon.  Probably

the best part was a surprise zone conference and temple trip. One of
the major themes in our mission is that "God doesn't do random" and so
during the zone conference our mission president got up and told a
couple of stories about how God doesn't do random. Then we did break
out sessions on learning how to work with members. Tracting is not
very effective at all, so our mission president is trying to have us
be with members at least twice as much as we are now. After that, some
wonderful sisters in the stake made us a wonderful Christmas lunch to
remind us of home complete with green jello and funeral potatoes.

The next day my comp and I fasted to know what we should do in our
ward to get the members more involved in missionary work. We were able
to say a concluding prayer to our fast in the celestial room of the
Portland temple. It was a really cool experience and I've got to say
that of all the temples I've been to so far, I think the Portland one
is the most downright gorgeous. Sorry if I offend any Salt Lake temple
elitist with my observation ha.

Besides the temple and zone conference it was actually a pretty mellow
week. But I came up with a couple reasons why proselyting during
Christmas time is the best:

1. People are thinking about Jesus Christ more

2. You can generally tell who's already Christian from the street by
looking for a Christmas tree.

3. More people are giving cookies to the missionaries, and more
importantly, a high percentage of those are gingerbread cookies

4. The church has a seasonal website and video that we can refer people to.

5. It's an excuse to wear the same red tie to every meeting

6. It's a lot brighter and inviting tracting a street with Christmas lights

7. Most missionaries are in a good mood because they can listen to
Michael buble, J Biebs, and Taylor swift (Christmas albums of course)

Also President Taylor announced that the new mission president would
be Dennis McAteer from somewhere in Canada. 

Can't wait to FaceTime you guys on Christmas!  Until then have a Happy Hanukkah and a splendid Kwanza!

I love you all!

~Elder Thomas

Surprise White Elephant Party in our Gresham Zone

Monday, December 14, 2015

Rain, rain, go away....PLEASE!

December 14, 2015

Hola familia y amigos!

It's been a good week here in Portland except for the rain. Ha it has rained for at least two weeks without ceasing and it has started to drive me crazy. But we had transfers this week and that was pretty good. My new comp is Elder Andrew and he's a stud. He's without a doubt the most musically talented guy I have ever met. He learned the guitar in a matter of months without a teacher and without a book and now he can play/sing any song he's even heard once. When he's famous you can hunt on the Internet for some of his old hand towels and guitar pics.

As far as the work goes this was a really successful week. I don't know if I've talked about Sheena and Katrina yet, but they're two sisters who were a referral from he Spanish Elders and they're way awesome. They have grandparents who were Mormon and they are interested in what they believed. The spirit of Elijah has been working on them hard core, they kept asking about temples and family history throughout the whole lesson and they even asked us to bring the family history coordinator to the next lesson! Like everyone else in Portland they're really liberal but that just makes the lessons more interesting.

We also found a family who moved here from Africa about a year ago (the Kabale family). They are WAY interested and the spirit was really strong during the lessons we've taught them so far. They even made it to the ward Christmas party. As far as Scott Swingle and his family is concerned, we stopped by his house and he said that he was still really interested but he's working a ton during the Christmas season, so they'll keep reading the Book of Mormon and we're going to resume lessons on January 2nd.

Quick thought for this week; seeing as our mission has iPads, we've been encouraged to download the "a savior is born" video and share is as often as possible. Consequently I've probably seen the video around 30 times and sometime in there it really hit me that when we celebrate Christmas we celebrate the greatest gift given from an all-powerful God. We celebrate the birth of our salvation. We celebrate the possibility of an eternal life with all those we love. No wonder we make Christmas such a big deal.

Also a quick S/O to the Cougars about to eat some red meat this weekend!
Happy Holidays!

Elder Thomas

Monday, December 7, 2015

Staying in Rocky Butte with plenty of less-active opportunities.

December 7, 2015

Hey Fam!

It's been a another good week in Portland. We got transfer
letters and I'll be staying in Rocky butte. My comp is going to be a
DL in the Portland zone and my new comp is going to be Elder Andrew. I
don't know much about Elder Andrew except that he came out the same
transfer as me and apparently he's really good at beat boxing. Also
the Portland zone leaders that we live with are getting doubled out,
so we have a lot of changes. I'm pretty bummed everyone's leaving
cause we had a great time being together and i learned a lot from
those Elders, but i know the zone leaders coming in too and they'll be
really good.

We also had a baptism this week which was a major highlight. On
Tuesday I got a call from my old comp Elder Davenport telling me the
Syrena Archer was getting baptized on Saturday. I realize I’m really
bad about talking about my investigators, so here's the quick low-down
 on Syrena: Syrena is a fourteen-year-old girl that I taught up in Lake
Sacajawea. Her mom and two of her brothers are members. Her house was
a lot of chaos and really loud during lessons which made it really
hard to feel the spirit. On top of that she didn't really pay
attention during lessons and didn't try super hard to understand what
we were teaching her. Eventually we came to the conclusion that her
conversion must happen while we weren’t there, so we started assigning
her to read specific chapters and verses and then write a couple
paragraphs about why those certain principles were important. WE
figured that would help a lot in the "pondering" part of the promise
given in Moroni 10:3. wow! it made a world of difference. All of a
sudden she started being excited to meet with us and tell us what she
had learned in writing her paragraphs. Unfortunately I had to leave the
area soon after she started really being interested. But I was able to
go back on Saturday for the baptism!!

I realize I haven't said much about our investigators here in Rocky
Butte and there's a good reason for that - we don't really have any.
Scott and his family are still way solid, but they've been out of town
all month, and besides that we spend all of our time finding or
reactivating less-active members. How many less-active members? Over
900 just in the ward boundaries. Our ward is especially struggling, but
Portland in general has about twice as many inactive as Vancouver just
across the river.

A highlight of this week was Wednesday when i got to go to the Tongan
ward again on exchanges. The relief society president had signed up
three days this week for dinner and when we got to the door she was
like "oh my Elders! I totally forgot! Here have $100 and I’ll prepare
a really nice meal for you on Sunday!" So we went to Applebee’s and got
nice steaks ha. I am really inspired by the faith that these people
have that God will bless them for their good works. I asked one lady
who feeds the missionaries a ton why she kept doing it and she was like
"well my family and I want blessings. Actually that's not true, my
family and I NEED the blessings. We can't afford not to feed servants
of the Lord." I am really humbled by the amount of great faith i have
seen out here on my mission.

I have actually seen a vision; and who am I that I can withstand God,
or why does the world think to make me deny what I have actually seen?
 For I had seen a vision; I knew it, and I knew that God knew it, and
I could not deny it, neither dared I do it..." Joseph Smith History


~Elder Thomas