Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Sister Courtnee Wood - We LIVE!!

I absolutely love this picture. When Courtnee was called to the Philippines this is exactly the image I had in my mind. She will be forever changed because of experiences like this.

Welcome welcome, Monday morning! How goes it everyone? Well first off, our whole aparment is safe and staying here in Aparri for another transfer! Which is good. I wouldn't have minded some change, but its good. This week i bought cookies and cream toothpaste, and it tastes like you are brushing your teeth with icing. So that's cool. Ummm mom I got your package! It was the greatest thing ever. I swear when I get stuff it is always perfect timing. The essential oil things are sweet, but I added them in my water like I said, but I must have not noticed i put more in of the peppermint and when i drank it my lips were burning. But I had to finish it all because that would be a big waste. Other than that it is all the best! Thank you. It always makes me so happy.
The photos of the duck and chicken. Disgusting right? I guess it is called 1 day old or something. You can see why. The Gototos family was plucking all of the feathers off of it so that they could make adobo with it. Just a filipino dish. I was so grossed out. But hey, they say it is delicious. Yeah.. not believing that.
Balut - Nasty!!

I thought on my mission I would be serving people all of the time. I mean in other forms rather than just teaching them. But here, no one wants you to help them. I am not joking! They all say no! Well there was this Less active lady that we just stopped by. She was really sick and complaining that her husband wasn't helping her clean, but she needed to do it. So we went in and started doing it without gettign her approval. She got so mad!!! I was sweeping the floor and she came and tried to grab the broom from me and I wouldn't let go. And I wasn't going to. She was being so stubborn. She tried to grab the broom from me for a few minutes, but it wasn't going anywhere. Finally she got tired and just sat down and went off about how she was mad now that we wouldn't stop helping her clean. makes no sense haha. Anyways, it taught me that we need to be willing to let people help us in things! Yeah sometimes it is hard, and I would be the first one to say it, but I mean how would we serve others if everyone didn't allow it? haha.
We taught a recent convert this week named Generose. She didn't come to church the last week and we asked her why. She said that we was reviewing for her tests and school. I immediately thought of my brother in law DD. I think he is the most perfect example to all of us reguarding this.I told her about derek and how he is in medical school right now and how he decided he would never study on sundays. I told her all of the blessings that have come to them and his grades because of it. I am so grateful for your example to everyone DD. I know that her and her family were touched by it even through my broken Tagalog. I am so happy that I have a brother in law that has so much faith to know that he will be blessed for something as simple as this! Thought I don't think I have ever verbalized it, it has always stuck with me and I look up to you a lot. You bet she was at church this week! :)
This weekend was district conference. Which is just like stake conference, but for our district of branches instead! It was really great. We went to a saturday night session, (all of the missionaries were invited). And Elder Villanueva from the Seventy spoke. He is a cool guy. Very small man though. haha. Yesterday we had the sunday session of it and we had the greatest turnout of people. There were so many people there! President and Sister Barrientos came up for it and they spoke. They always rock it. The awesome news is that we had 8 investigators there! Awesome right?! It was so great. A lot of them were from the Santiago family we have been teaching. There are 4-5 of them that come to church. Well don't ask why, but I decided that we should sit on the very front row with them. My companion was behind us sitting with someone else. So I was sitting in between a total of 5 young kids. Haha oh my heavens. But don't worry, I came well prepared. I brought all of my valentines candy I got and printed off coloring pages. That's what I mean that my moms packages are always perfect timing! I took all of the markers with me and I had them quiet and reverent for 3/4 of the meeting!! I was really proud actually. But I will admit that I felt like a mom and definitely got a taste of what it will be like in maybe 10 years! :) haha .Anyways, this week was such a blessing. The focus of course this weekend was on the Work of Salvation. Hopefully it motivated the members! Our branch is doing great. 
Sister Jocelyn should be getting baptized on March 22! She came to church again so we are going to commit her for her interview this saturday! It will be so good for her family. That's the next baptism and then the santiago family has a date for the 29th. I think it will happen it just depends if we wait for their mom to be on board with it as well. Annnnnnnnnd... my Tagalog kind of got better this week. But i repeat..... kind of.
Last night all the lights went out. (happens frequently). But it was so dark, and THANK YOU MOM AND DAD for sending my headlight because even though I looked like a dork, our whole place was lit up. You are the best.
I am doing good, it is all going by too fast. Thanks for everything ! :) 

sister wood
Courtnee's desk

Courtnee's district leader wearing an American tie

Courtnee helped Brother Rowell (left) get ready for his prom. His jacket is one of the Sister Missionaries. Cute boys

Elder Zach Taylor - Obligado Week 10

Well, this week has been one of the best so far in Obligado. I guess I´ll start out with a cool experience we had Thursday.
On Thursdays, we usually go to Hohenau, which is another city close by where our branch president lives. We go there to eat lunch with him, and then usually visit a few people around there. Since it´s a little far, we always have to take a bus to get over there. So that morning, we went over to the station to wait for the bus to come just like we always do. My companion, Elder Hemenway, was a little hungry, so we went over to this little store in the station and he bought an empanada from the lady there. Well right as he handed her the money, the bus we usually take pulled up to the station. I don´t really know what the problem was, but the lady was taking FOREVER to get the change out, and, since nobody was getting on the bus, it left. Needless to say, we were a little upset. We sat down for a second, and then after a few minutes noticed that another bus, which had been parked on the side of the street, was starting up and about ready to leave. We don´t usually get on that one, but it goes by the place we needed to get to so we got on. A little bit down the road the bus pulls over and this guy gets on. He smiled at us, walked over and sat down, held out his hand and said ¨how´s it going?¨ We got talking and found out he´s a member of the church,  inactive for 10 years. He had been in Buenos Aires all that time, but was just barely coming back to Obligado. He said we could come over this week to meet his family. I was surprised, but thankful that we had missed the first bus. I don´t know if anything will come of this, but I was thankful to be shown that there are always people in our path who may need our help.
We also had a couple baptisms this saturday. One of them was Gabriel, who is the son of one of the members but hadn´t been baptized yet. The other was Virginia. She´s 8, her family are all less active, but she asked me to baptize her. That was a really cool opportunity. There were a lot of people who came to the baptism, not only from Obligado but from Trinidad and Hohenau too. We had 37 people come to church the next day, which is the most since we´ve been here. Virginia and Gabriel both got confirmed that day too. It was a really nice weekend, one of the best of my mission so far. I loved seeing everyone show up and be in the same place. All the people we´ve been visiting were finally together, and that was our goal from the start.
I´ve been learning a lot in these weeks. My companion has taught me how to be happy and friendly with people, how to be open and make connections. Being in this area has taught me about patience. I grow to love this place more and more when we have weeks like this one. I´m seeing the purposes in sending me here. And I´m so thankful that I have a Heavenly Father that knows me and knows what I need better than I could ever know myself.
It´s been a good week.
Elder Taylor

Elder Almen Thorpe - Good Morning!

Hello! its always great to hear from the family! Happy to hear that everyone is safe and still having fun. Thanks for all the encouragement, love, and comforting letters! I just want you all to know that the things you write to me are what I use in the mission field when meeting new people on the road. Thank you for the help, means a lot! 

This week was really busy week! My companion and I were teaching one of our investigators named Sabrina who is 19. Sabrina expressed to us last time we met with her that she wants to get baptized. Now we have been teaching her for the past three transfers so that is I believe five months....or four I have no clue, I lost track of time but she is a tough one. She had past missionaries also teach her and they all have been stuck at the some spot with her like my companion and I are right now. This week we met back at her house to teach her a lesson. Sabrina gets distracted easily but we have Eva, one of the YSA member girls come with us at the lesson to help. Sabrina's mom is Samoan and doesn't speak English at all so it is tough to try to get her mom in the lesson with us as well. Her mom grew up in the AOG church (I have no clue what AOG stands for). She is in her 60's. She doesn't mind us going over and teaching Sabrina, its just that she doesn't really understand why we come over and visit with her.

While teaching Sabrina a lesson, out of no where I asked her to take her bible inside the house, not even thinking of what I was saying Sabrina gave me a weird look and took the bible inside. When I said that I thought that the bible she was holding in her hand was a different version of the bible with false doctrine...but it wasn't, it was the same one that we read. Sabrina's mom heard me say that from the inside of the house and kept yelling Sabrina's name. We also had the two Zone Leaders show up to the lesson with us which also made her mom mad at us. Too many things going on at once that it was all over the place. We then asked Sabrina if we could come back another day. I felt bad for saying that and getting her mom upset. Ever since I said that I have felt so bad and guilty.

This Sunday I had a good talk with Brother Foshio (Sabrinas brother in law). My companion and I talked to him and figured out that what I said was not polite but also something that we could use to get her mom involved in the church because she expressed herself that she was wondering what we missionaries were teaching her daughter. My lesson was learned this week to be careful of what you say and that sometimes saying something you don't mean to say can be a way to open the doors to others. Hopefully the mom can sit down with us and we can teach her a lesson and also apologize to her. We live and learn everyday and sometimes we have to learn the hard way and not get down on ourselves really hard because we are all not perfect, we all make mistakes. It's just like we have learned, we have to make mistakes in life because if we don't then we won't learn from those mistakes. 

Last Sunday my companion and I went to one of our investigators house. His name is Picky Williams or Brother Williams. We asked Picky to come to church with us, he said yes and our ward mission leader picked him and his children up for church while my companion and I walked to church. We met up with them at the church and sat behind Bishops wife with his two kids, I'm so glad we sat next to Bishops wife because she kept Picky's little boy busy by giving him little snacks and his daughter as well. This really showed him that as members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Later Saints, we welcome all and we care about everyone that is looking to come unto Christ. After sacrament we talked to him and he told us that he is going to start coming to church every week.

The following Sunday Picky brought his partner to church, she enjoyed it but they left early during sacrament, my companion and I later that night went over to their house to talk to both of them. She told us that church wasn't for her but she would support Picky. We sat down and got to know her. We didn't want us to teach her a lesson but to show her what the church is and how it can really bless her life. We told her about ourselves and where we came from, she then started opening up to us. She asked, "what is it that makes everyone in your church so happy?" We told her that it's that we know for ourselves how much the gospel has blessed our lives and our families as well. Also having the knowledge that we can be with our families forever not only in this life but in the next life as well. The spirit was so strong. Her whole attitude changed, she become more interested in what we have to say, she wants to learn more. She told us right away that she has a smoking problem. What a miracle! This shows that someone like her can change in an instant when you bring up the gospel. Just like Elder Holland said "Something that they say will always highlight a gospel principle. The people we talk to are not lifeless objects but rather our brothers and sisters, they need what we have!". I can testify what Elder Holland said is true, everybody we talk to are not lifeless objects but our brothers and sisters and we need to share what we have with them because they are searching for the truth. We have the truth an should not be afraid to share it. Last nights visit with Pickys wife is what we needed. If my companion and I didn't go to the house she would have thought about herself, not wanting to go to church and stop smoking. She would of sat there in her mind saying that she wasn't good enough. Both Picky and his wife will be getting married this month on the 22nd and baptized. PLEASE KEEP THEM IN YOUR PRAYERS!!! 

I just want to share my testimony, I know Jesus Christ and Heavenly Father live. I know that we are here to learn on earth. I know that everything the pioneers, Joseph Smith, and the all the prophets of the church went through was for all of us because they knew for themselves that the next generation would be harder then theirs. They knew for themselves that we would be wanting to know who to turn to for help. I'm so thankful for all they sacrificed in order for all of us to be safe and live with all the happiness in our lifetime on earth! I love this gospel, I love my Heavenly Father and I know that through his example and commandment we can all return to him once again. I love you all and will keep you all in my prayers!! 

Love Elder Thorpe

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Elder Kaden Barlow - March 3, 2014

Elder Ponce and Elder Barlow at Cesar’s Baptism
Hola familia!! Como les va?

Well this week has been sorta so so. You know that reference that we got from Elder Zivic... well things were going great and then we showed up yesterday and he comes to the door and says that his pastor told him that he wasn't allowed to investigate other religions and that he wouldn't let us in.  We talked to him a little about free agency and bore our testimonies but it didn't do any good, so that was a bummer :(

The Bishop gives all new missionaries in the ward a blessing.  He blessed me three separate times in the blessing with strength and patience to endure trials.  I was a little worried after that, then about 6 that night I started getting really sick. My stomach was hurting super super bad. I was just lying curled up on my bed, then we got transfer calls. I will be staying here with Elder Ponce another transfer, and Elder Palomino is leaving and we hear we are getting a disobedient new district leader. So yeah that kinda stinks.  Then I spend the rest of the night throwing up in the bathroom.  It was just so much fun!

As for the good part of my week, we had a baptism Saturday!! :) Cesar was baptized and it was really cool. It’s always cool to see how happy they are after they come out of the font.

I celebrated Valentine’s Day by buying myself a coconut ice cream it was pretty good!!  Last Monday for p-day we had a zone activity. We watched 17 miracles, and this happened to be my first time seeing it... yeah I know I own it but I have never seen it. It was super good!! It inspired me thinking about all that the pioneers gave for the gospel. It definitely makes some of the sacrifices (although hard for us) look rather small. I’m thankful for their example for me though. :) 

Let’s see, we met an investigator that is super cool, his name is Jay. He is a super great guy and I think that he is going to progress really well. We have only taught him a few times so far but he is reading and keeping his commitments so that is good. We gave him a shirt and tie so he can come to church next Sunday so we will see how that goes. 

Love you all!!



Sister Courtnee Wood - Life's A Climb, But The View Is Great

Sister Wood sporting BYU from head to toe while riding her method of transportation - These are typically used only in the rice fields, but today it was used to ride across town. 

This title was the first thing that came to my mind when I thought of what to title this email hahaha. Please, I hope people know where this saying comes from. (hannah montana movie) It has nothing to do with my email though.
So, first off I would like to say that I hope that everyones life is treating you well at home! If not, remember that God loves you. That is something I have to remember alot here. As a missionary I am still a human and so imperfect. Sometimes I feel like people may get the impression that all of the experiences I have had so far on my mission have been a walk in the park to get used to or may thing that I am so tough. Well, if you know me really well, you probably know that I don't have a high tolerance for pain. In fact I am a big baby. A BIG baby haha. Lets be real, getting stepped on the toes with cleats or getting kicked with a frozen soccer ball in the cold is the most painful thing of my life haha. The the "pain" or hardness here isn't technically physical pain (okay yeah sometimes), it definitely is emotionally and mentally and spiritually hard! Even though the mission probably won't help me be able to tolerate physical pain, I know that mentally and emotionally and spiritually, Heavenly father is helping me become strong and helping me become a lot more tolerant (oh and probably tolerable haha) to all of the frustrations and hardships that I am weak at. I definitely have a long way to go. This last month in Aparri has been the most humbling and difficult time for me. I have discovered things about myself I never knew. This stuff is proof to me that the Lord is shaping me into who he wants me to be. One of the most difficult things for me right now is the language.When I was in Laoag I really thought I was good! That it was all down  hill from there. It wasn't that hard! Well, I feel like I left my knowldege of Tagalog in Laoag because I feel like I am back to square one in the MTC! It has been so hard for me to accept that I am horrible at Tagalog. My whole life I have been able to just catch on to things, so not being able to get this down makes me want to scream! But I have had to humble myself and realize, "okay, you think you can do anything, but you aren't getting anywhere until you turn and rely on the Lord." This small bit of time has made me stronger and more tolerable in every way and I know that God's promise to us in Ether 12:27 is true! That if we humble ourselves and have faith, He will make weak things become strong. Whether a missionary, or a mom, or dad, or son, or daughter, life will never be easy. It was always be hard. But, "Thou therefore endure hardness as a good soldier of Jesus christ," (2 timothy 2:3) and we will see His influence and love along the journey. I am so grateful for all of these experiences I am having. I wouldn't trade it for anything! Haha well, thank you for taking the time to read my thoughts. It was something I was pondering and reflecting on during my personal study this week, and so i wanted to share it with you! 
Whew! This week has been rockin. Many things went on just like every other week. 
First things first, we moved into our new apartment. Man, it was a long process. It took us 1 full day and I am still not done unpacking my junk. My companion is super OCD so I am sure she is freaking out on the inside, but I am just like whatever. I really love the new place it is so nice. The whole place is still under construction so there are workers there everyday. We got there the first day and it wasn't very clean. We had to re-clean it. Well I got in the bathroom, yes this was the part i was actually looking forward to! Go in there, no toilet seat!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! This was the only thing I wanted. So there was a normal toilet, but no seat. Like what's the point? Yeah i walked out and asked the workers if we could please get a toilet seat on our toilet. I want to enjoy my time while I am in the bathroom since I haven't been able to the last month! They took care of it. :) I don't really know why they even let us move in cause there were so many little things not quite right, so they had to keep coming into our apartment to fix stuff. But all is well now. Oh and not to mention, the keys they gave us didn't open our door, so the 3rd night we were there we got home and were completely locked out of our place. That is why there is the picture of the elders there because they had to climb up  the wall into our back door, and literally hit the door so hard the lock would break. And they did it, so our door is a little broken, so the workers had to fix that too! Their fault haha. Since our apartment is still a construction site, we still do get to stand on our balcony in the morning and watch many many rats run around. Don't ask why I am not grossed out by it anymore. So our move was probably the biggest news of the week. 
Old Apartment - I (her Mom) have had several nightmares about this place. I couldn't be happier that she is in a brand new apartment!
New Apartment

Spiral Staircase in the new apartment
The work is going so well! We now have 10 baptismal dates and we had 6 investigators at church yesterday! It was the best! We started teaching so many more new people and found a family that had previously been taught by the missionaries. THe santiago family. The mom doesn't really want anything to do with it, but all her kids want to. They walked with us to church yesterday and it was the greatest thing in the world. They will be getting baptized soon I am sure of it. There are a couple of baptismal dates for this month, but since they didn't come to church yesterday they can't be. THe only one that can is Jocelyn GOtotos. Mitch May's mom. She came yesterday and really wants to be baptized, but she doesn't feel like she can be because she has some debt to pay off. We will continue teaching her because she is so ready! We will help her realize she needs this now, and you don't have to be perfect. So many of the less active families that need to be preparing to get sealed in the temple came to church yesterday! What a joy! I am amazed every day by the incredible faith all of the people have here. We had FHE at the Alcantara's house this week. It is a part member family and GOSH THEY NEED TO BE BAPTIZED! 3 of the kids are, but the parents aren't. We are trying everything to get them to church. It was one of the first times that the whole family was together (photo) and we watched the restoration dvd. the spirit was there, and I pray that they were touched by it. We will extend a date for the family this next week. I am so lucky to be a missionary. Seeing people change is probably the greatest blessing you get as a missionary.
Alcantara Family
Transfer calls will happen this weekend! WHAT THE! Already. I won't be transferred, but there is a good chance my companion will. Guess we will have to see what the Lord wants! :) Thank you all for your continued support everyone. I love hearing from you! 
Sister Wood
View from her balcony

Lights on the ocean

Elder Tanner Nelson - March 3, 2014

Elder Tanner Nelson
Okay, first off, I have to say, I'd rather eat mundungo than cow intestines...just sayin.... (note from mom….One is cow stomach, and the other cow intestines.  I think it’s funny that he has a preference between those 2 options.  Ew.) J
And....................OBDELI GOT BAPTIZED!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! It was so so sooooooo amazing. We had stake conference this weekend, and so we went to church early to start filling the font. So then conference ended, and guess what? No obdeli. His dad was there and everyone from the branch that was staying was there, but no Obdeli. We had told everyone it was going to start at 12:30, right after stake conference, just because everyone runs on hispanic time and comes late to everything....So we were actually planning to start at 1.   Pres. and Sis. Jeppson were there, our zone leaders, district leaders, and the AP's were there, but the guy who was going to be baptized wasn't even there!!!!! He finally rolled in at about 1:15, and we ran him into the dressing room and finally started at about 1:30. I translated for Sis. Jeppson, and we sang (side note, when we were singing, sis Jeppson said I have a beautiful voice ;)) Then came time for the baptism. We escorted him to the door. We watched from the side door. Obdeli was so nervous - he was shaking.  But he followed his dad down into the water, and they got right into position. His dad closed his eyes, and said the prayer from memory. "Basilio Obdeli Gomez Luis, habiendo sido comisionado por Jesucristo, yo te bautizo en el nombre........." and then he went down into the water. As soon as he came up, he wiped the water out of his eyes, and then him and his dad embraced and just bawled together for about 3 minutes!! It was so amazing - the spirit was so strong!! You could definitely feel the love they have for each other and for their desires to do what's right.

And guess what? That's the first baptism my area has had in almost 3 YEARS!!!!

Like I said, this weekend was our stake conference. The Focus was on, "Because I have been given much I too must give." It was really really good!!  I felt again that the principle of fasting was true. That as we fast and pay our fast offerings, we are helping to build God's kingdom. I can especially see it in action because we have this family in our branch, the Padillas, who literally have nothing. We've opened their fridge a few times, and there isn't even enough food to feed Elder diaz and I for two meals. And they have the two parents and three kids, ages 12, 11, and 9. The kids are so tiny. It's horrrible to see!! But every time we go over there, they always offer to give us something. It's so humbling to see, that even when they have nothing, they are so willing to give. So just remember, we have been given much, so it is our responsibility to give according to what we can.



Elder Zach Taylor - Baptism Week


Elder Taylor
Every week I come to the computer and try to remember all that happened.. there´s a lot to tell. The week started off pretty well. On Tuesday we had another meeting in EncarnaciĆ³n again. I don´t know why the zone leaders keep calling zone meetings... that´s like the 6th in the 8 weeks I´ve been here. But it was good, they gave us cookies and fruit salad to eat after, so that was a pleasant surprise. That was also the day that we were going to do Irma´s baptismal interview. Our district leader´s companion had to go to AsunciĆ³n to sign papers, so he and Elder Barragan, one of the zone leaders, were together that day. They both came to Obligado so Elder Magdaleno, the district leader, could do the interview. They wanted to do splits with us, so I went with Elder Barragan to one side of our area while my companion and Elder Magdaleno went over by where Irma lives. It was a good time. Elder Barragan and I just went and clapped a bunch of houses to try to find new investigators. We actually found a couple good people that seemed interested. One was this nice old lady named Nilda, who when my companion and I went back later that week accepted the Book of Mormon excitedly. She was like, wow, another testament of Jesus? Cool! We´ll see how things go with her.
One thing I learned during splits was that there are a lot of nice people here in Obligado. I love my companion, but I´ll be honest he isn´t really the ¨we can do this¨ type of person. If the members don´t want to help us, he doesn´t want to even try. But I know that there are still people out there. I had kind of succumbed to his way of thinking for a while.. Elder Barragan was really friendly and positive with me and with the people. That´s one thing I could work on a lot. Being here is helping me learn how to take initiative in things, how to step up and lead when it´s necessary. There are a lot of attributes I´ve been able to develop here in Obligado that I don´t know if I ever would have if I didn´t come here. Although it might not be the most ideal place to serve, I do love it for the things it´s teaching me.
As I mentioned last week, we did have a baptism this Saturday! Only Irma ended up getting baptized. The little boy, Gabriel, got shy when Elder Magdaleno went to do the interview and just said ¨I don´t know¨ to every question. So he told us we should wait until next week to do it. And the other girl, Virginia, just didn´t show up because her brother got sick or something. So we´ll try again for this Saturday.
Irma´s baptism went really well. There were only 5 people that showed up besides us, but it was nice anyway and I could feel the spirit. It kinda weirded me out at first, usually something happens just before a baptism that messes everything up. Like they start doubting or some small problem comes up. Nothing like that happened with her. She´s just a very humble person who was quick to believe the things we taught. She gave her testimony in sacrament meeting yesterday, which I thought was really cool. As of right now, she´s planning on staying active, which is something that is usually very hard to make happen. I also had the opportunity to confirm her on sunday, which was a really neat experience for me.
I´ve had a good week all in all. I´ve gained new desires and goals for what I want to become throughout my mission and life. Staying positive and looking forward. Talk to you next week.
Elder Taylor

Elder Almen Thorpe - Have A Good P-Day

Hey There! It's great to hear that everybody is doing well and being safe. I can't believe the time is going by so fast, weird. I'm happy to hear that Amy is doing that, (setting her alarm to do scripture study, a small and simple thing) keep up the good work.
Sometimes when things just aren't going your way all you can do is just smile, laugh and move on to the next step or the next situation. I've really learned how to study, plan effectively and how to take care of myself in many things that I was worried about when I was at home. Now all I can say is there is nothing to worry about.
It's neat to hear that both grandmas are still having fun with you two, mom and dad, I'm always keeping them in my prayers and thinking about them everyday, miss them both so much! Please give them a hug for me. 
During this week on Thursday we had a Mission Conference. This Conference is where all the Sisters and Elders attend to hear from our Mission President. A little mix to this mission conference was that instead of our mission president speaking, we had one of the apostles come down to speak to us. It was ELDER ANDERSEN!!!! I know what you are thinking right now... how lucky am I and I have to agree with you, I am so lucky!!! I can't believe that Elder Andersen came down last Thursday to speak to us!!! All the Elders and Sisters of the mission stood up waiting for Elder Andersen to walk into the room, as soon as he walked into the room, he had this huge grin on his face and made a little joke. Everybody then sat down and one by one, all of the rows went up and shook his hand, WOW!! I wish I never had to wash my right hand, ever. It was just such a cool experience to be in his sight and in the same room as him.
Elder Andersen talked to us about the atonement, missionary work and other topics that I can't remember (I was too excited to even remember some of his topics) but he came down from the pulpit and started teaching and walking around all the chairs in the chapel. It was like he was one of us, his posture and just how he felt about sharing his message was in a simple way that everybody in the room understood. He really come down to all the missionaries level and taught us in a way of just simple doctrine. Elder Andersen knows so much about the gospel that he taught in a simple way with power and authority. It was just amazing to see because during his speeches he was making jokes with us, laughing and being himself. Overall the talk was amazing. I'm so blessed to be able to see an apostle of the Lord in person.
What I took out of that visit was that an apostle himself has fun while teaching and sharing the gospel. Yes we have to be examples to others but we can also have fun with the people we are teaching and have fun with what we believe in. That's what makes us different, its because we are always happy, cheery, caring and loving members of the Church Of Jesus Christ of Later Day Saints. We don't need to know everything in the  gospel in order to teach someone, we need to show that we care about them in a way that they can feel our love for them and show that we are normal people as they are. We as members are all about sharing and wanting what is the best of those who are looking for a way in life or for answers. 
As a missionary, two years goes by fast but after those two years, life doesn't just stop there. We endure to the end no matter what obstacles come in our way. Missionary or members, we are all together and workin unity. It is what keeps the church running and moving forward. Seeing Elder Andersen really woke me up even more. What I have learned when I was growing up was not just make believe stuff but what really truly happened.
Being here in New Zealand I have seen little kids being bullied by their parents because that's a lot how their culture is down here. A lot of kids grow up with an understanding that its ok to beat up their kids because that's what their parents do. Sometimes in life we get distracted by worldly things and forget to focus on the real picture in our lives. Elder Andersen talked about the Atonement and how Jesus Christ suffered for every single feeling that we have felt in our lives. Talking about the atonement really caught my attention because I don't know too much about it. But just hearing it from Elder Andersen, it was something that had to be done in order for each one of us to come down here on earth. Jesus Christ did it for all of us because he loved every single one of us. We can all be forgiven for the past transgressions we have done. Most people in the world think you can't be forgiven. But you can through repentance. I myself can put my feet in the peoples' shoes down here in New Zealand because even though I grew up in a Mormon family, I was never perfect, never really decided to be fully involved in the church. I thought a lot of this was all just made up but really what he showed me when I turned my back against Him was how it feels when you are empty, alone, and forgotten. Once I asked for forgiveness and was forgiven, from that moment on I have always asked for forgiveness, even if it is for the little things that I didn't think really mattered. But to him, it does. My life now is different and I'm sharing my life experiences and how the people can change because there is always a way back to church and to our Father in Heaven. He is a just Father who cares and loves every single one of us. My testimony has grown stronger and stronger each time I share it with the people we meet with. 
I'll always have that smile on my face, no matter what!!!!! Don't think anybody can take this smile off my face!!! Love you and hope the week goes great!!! Love Elder Thorpe