I hope that all is well and that you're all ready for Christmas. This week has been pretty interesting. Elder Edwards, who was just sick four weeks ago, came down with the stomach flu this week. He was having a really rough time. Elder Hettinger and I very luckily did not get sick this week. Most of the week we were scrambling to go on splits with other missionaries and members to visit people. One very cool thing about our district is that there are two Spanish Elder trios is the Buena Vista Ward. So one of them would stay with Elder Edwards and Elder Hettinger and I were able to get out and go to our appointments. It was working great until Elder Edwards got one of the Elders in the other trio sick too. So it has been an interesting week. But we have still been able to get quite a bit done, considering the circumstances. This week we had a really good lesson with Mario and Berta. They are the couple in their 50's and the parents of a recent convert who recently moved to North Carolina. They are really sweet. They are reading and coming to church and are progressing pretty well. This week, however, has been pretty hard on them. Berta got really sick a few days ago and her daughter Lucy, who we are also teaching, had to take her to the hospital. They gave us a call last night and Lucy was really upset and asked us to come and give her mom a blessing. So we got permission from President to leave the zone and went to the Bakersfield hospital. The whole Rivas family was there. I guess they have been running some tests and it looks like Berta has a tumor and they are saying that it may be cancer. The whole family was really just kind of somber and sad, but Berta was still as energetic and lively as ever. She is a really sweet and funny lady. So we visited with them for a while and then gave her a blessing. I really hope that the tests come out negative and that all is well. Please keep Berta and the Rivas family in your prayers.
This Saturday we had the mission morningside, where all of the missionaries in Bakersfield meet and we have a get together before Christmas. It was really cool to see a lot of my old mission friends, a lot of whom I will be finishing with in just two weeks. The meeting was really awesome. Every year we watch a Christmas movie and I was surprised because this year we got to watch one that wasn't a church movie! We watched "It's a Wonderful Life" and it was awesome. It is kind of an older movie, but having watched it, I think it is one of my favorites. I know it's a classic, but I had never seen the whole movie before. The message in that movie is really great. Its a lot about forgetting yourself and giving to others. The story is all about this guy who grew up wanting to travel and have a really cool job and move out of town. As he grew up he ended up staying in town and taking over his father's old business and although he didn't get to travel and have everything he wanted before, he spent his life serving those around him and making an incredible difference in people's lives. I loved it. It reminded me that true happiness comes from service. We don't need to have the best job, the best car or live in the nicest place. As long as we love those around us and serve others, we'll be happy. There is a really cool quote from the movie that says something along the lines of, "All you can take with you is what you give away." I know that is so true. And I think that is something really good to remember at Christmas time. Its a lot more important what you give than what you receive. As I close out my two years, I know that I've been really blessed to have spent this time in the Lord's service. A lot of people ask us why we leave school, family, friends, and life back home. The things I've learned on my mission and the happiness that it has brought me is something I'll always be able to take with me.
I hope you all have a wonderful Christmas! I am excited to Skype the family on Christmas. It won't be such a bittersweet goodbye this time, since I'll see them all again in a few days. Okay, I love you all! Thanks for everything!
Elder Chad Thompson