Monday, December 29, 2014

talking to Jonathan on his birthday

My Dear Family,
I`m so happy to hear that everyone had an enjoyable and adventurous Christmas. (And Jacob, now you have no excuses to lose in basketball if you`re taller than Dad ;) ) And I`m so happy that you were all able to have so much fun with the family. That I think is one of the core elements to a succesfull life, happiness in being together as a family. =)

Here things are going to be a little crazy for the following week. From what I`ve heard, New Year's Eve here is the most dangerous day of the year. We`re actually going to receive special instructions from our president in how we should work on Wednesday today in our district meeting. (P-day got moved to Thursday this week because none of the people or shops will be open all day on the January 1st. We`re actually just writing you guys and then going to work today. =) )

One thing I forgot to say when you called me was to have a Happy Anniversary! I hope you guys did something fun to celebrate.

Mom, I`m sorry that your back hurts still, and I really hope that it starts to get feeling better. I`ll be praying for you this week especially as well. 

Our Christmas here was pretty normal. They really only celebrate on the 24th and stay up until midnight and then open presents, but it was fun because I got to meet the family of Elder Lizana! They`re all very nice, and working hard in their branch as well. 

My birthday was also really good, and one of the less active families that we helped come back to Church even gave me a tie and a bracelet. I was so happy, because I know they don`t have very much, but are so willing to give. 

Well we have to go now, because it`s not actually P-day and we have an appointment so I`ll fill you in on all the crazy things that happen here over the weekend this next Monday.

I`m glad Jenny is doing well, and enjoyed her mission, and I hope that everyone enjoys their New Year!

Lots of love,
Elder Hales.

PS I`m sorry that I didn`t send the pictures of the baptism. The computer store we usually go to was all full, and this one doesn`t have a spot for my memory card. :p

Monday, December 22, 2014

My Dear Family,
We have to travel to Guayaquil today, (the whole mission is going to the temple! =) ) and we´ve only been given enough time to confirm our skype times. We live right above a very nice family. Sorry it´s been so hectic to get plans to you, but we honestly haven´t know which days we would be here, and what days we would be in Guayaquil. If possible, could we plan for 12:30 on December 26th your time? I have so much to talk to you about and can´t wait!
Love Elder Hales =)

Monday, December 15, 2014

Here is the mission home address if it is hard for you to read the white lettering above:
Elder Jonathan Reid Hales
Ecuador Guayaquil North Mission
Casilla de Correo 16160
Guayaquil, Ecuador

My Dear Family,
This week has been very fast! Probably because there were so many different things happening. 
We went back to Quevedo (about 5 hours in a bus both ways,) and had a follow up conference about what Elder Uceda taught us. One of the things that President Riggins is going to put into place is that once a year there is going to be a zone conference entirely in English. He is very determined to help the Latinos learn English while they are on their missions!  But he had a lot of good points especially about reading the scriptures. He drew a 4x4 grid on the white board and asked how many squares there are. We all told him there were 16, but he then pointed out to us that there were many more squares hidden in the picture, just waiting for us to read more carefully and read to find more than we can see on a first glance. (There are 30 if you want to try and count them all. haha ) 

The most important thing that we talked about is that we are changing the vision of the mission completely. Now we`re working a lot more with less active members. (And there are a ton!)  I think our ward conference yesterday really helped the branch to feel their sense of duty in retention and reactivation. Everyone is really excited to work together.

One thing that was very interesting for me this week was that the other branch asked me to lead the ward choir because their director was going to be out of town for branch conference. We had three practices for an hour each, and I never thought I would be so proud of a chior that managed to sing on pitch. They worked so hard, and it was really humbling to see how much the people were willing to work to share their testimonies through music. 

I think they`ll keep me in Vinces for 6 more weeks, because most of the transfers have already happened, but we could get a change as late as Tuesday morning. I think it`ll be nice to pass Christmas here with the members and missionaries that we know. Dad, our ward mission leader has a nice laptop with a camara so I think we`ll be good to skype. It might be a day other than Christmas though to make things easier for Elder Lizana`s family.

I love you guys so much and I`m glad things are going well for you. And Dad, I`m happy that Jacob is keeping you up to date with newest slang words. I wonder what crazy things he`ll be saying when I get back. 
Mom, I'm happy things went well playing for the stake choir. I`ve never been so appreciative of the chance I have to share my testimony with music, and I`m glad you get to do the same. =) 

Lots of Love,
Elder Hales.

Monday, December 8, 2014

Jonathan's birthday is December 26th if you want to send him a card.  The address listed on his blog is the mission home address along with his email address if that is easier.  You can also send him a letter using the pouch system at:
Elder Jonathan Reid Hales
Ecuador Guayaquil North Mission
POB 30150
Salt Lake City, Ut 84130-0150

The pouch only requires a US postage stamp but it can only be an 8 1/2 x 11" piece of paper folded over in 3rds with his address written on the front. Thanks for your love and support for him.

My Dear Family,
I`m so happy to hear that everything is 20 at home, (an Ecuadorian phrase =) ) And I hope the Christmas stress is coming to an end for you all now that concerts/chocolates/Messiah/Christmas letters are coming to an end. 
it`s very easy to forget that it`s the Christmas season here, because the only things I`ve seen are small trees in a few houses and a couple of lights at night, But the 25 Days of Christ have helped a lot! I was so happy with all the things in my package, and it really meant a lot to me. (But don`t worry the only things I`m using before Christmas are the countdown stories/ornaments and the prelude book because I`m playing for our branch conference meeting this next week. =) ) It really made me feel loved, and I`m so happy that you all were thinking of me.
This last week felt very short for me because on Saturday we traveled for two and a half hours to the city of Quevado to hear our Area 70 speak to us. His name is Elder Uceda and he is in charge of Peru, Ecuador, Venezuela, Bolivia, and Colombia. He talked to us a lot about how we need to focus on two things, retention, and reactivation. In our area there is a baptism every 15 minutes, but only 17 percent are active still after two years. I thought that was crazy! And I think that`s why our new president has been incresing the requirerments for baptism in the last few months. He really stressed that this is the new vision for the missionaries in South America from the First Presidency. It was a really spiritual meeting.
We didn`t get home that night until a little before midnight, so we were all pretty tired for Sunday. (My companion actually fell asleep during the Christmas devotional, and I only really tried to understand the last talk. I`ve found that when I`m really focusing on listening I can understand word for word what is being said. The problem is that it is very exhausting sometimes.
I`m finishing my training this week, so it`ll be interesting to see if I get a new companion this next week or not. I think Elder Lizana is ready to leave. Our sector is very small for 4 missionaries, and I think they might close one sector.
That`s all that`s new from Ecuador. I hope everything continues to go well back at home for Christmas! 
Lots of Love,
Your favorite Elder Hales. =)

Monday, December 1, 2014

My Dear Family,
I`m so glad you were all able to enjoy the holidays, and I was so happy to see so many pictures. (Jacob and Dad looked especially happy in their crazy biker hair) And I couldn`t stop laughing at Jacob`s beard at the 5K Run. I`m glad to know that some things don`t change.

Everyone here is very excited that it is December and that the Christmas season is starting. I think that is very funny because the weather has been getting hotter and hotter as well and we had our first big rain last night. I guess Christmas just won`t be quite the same in upper 90 degress and rain boots haha but it`s fun that everyone is so excited. =)

We got some pretty disappointing news about some of the families we`re teaching. In the baptismal interview on Tuesday, Gloria told us that she didn`t want to be baptized until the 6th of December, which was a little bit of a red flag for us because she`s been super animated since the second visit. After talking to her we found out that she went back to her ex boyfriend the night before. It was super devastating because now she and her children can`t be baptized for a while. Our other investigator that was going to be baptized yesterday had a sudden family emergency and had to take his brother to the hospital and work all day Sunday to pay for the medical bills. Hopefully he can keep his excitement up for another week before his baptism as well. I wish we knew the best way to help them in their specific problems, and I just hope they can recognize the beginning of the path that will bring them true happiness in life.

Since we didn`t have a baptismal service to prepare for we got to go do service in a near by city called Palenque. It`s actually half jungle, half city, and was really interesting to talk to all the humble members there. El Presedente de los Elderes made us lunch after the service and it was a really nice chance to get to know some of the members that live farther away in our sector.

Other than that things are beginning to pick up here, and we`re so excited for the fun month of December to start here. =) Transfers are in two weeks Dad.

Lots of love and good luck this week! Jacob, stay out of trouble now that you`ll be driving and dating haha =)
Elder Hales
Elder Brady on the left and Jonathan's companion on the right sporting their BYU shirts outside of Jonathan's apartment
Guayaquil Temple

Monday, November 24, 2014

My Dear Family,
I`m glad to hear things are going so well at home, and that everyone is enjoying the pre holiday stress haha! I hope, Mom, that you don`t get too overwhelmed, You`re such a valient worker to help so many people especially in this busy season. As for plans for Thanksgiving, the supermarket and stores have had Christmas decorations up since November 2.
We had a very busy week here. We got to go to Guayaquil for part of Thursday and all of Friday for an interzone conference and training with President Riggons. It was really powerful, (especially since we got to go to the temple before the meeting. We`re so lucky that we get to go every 3 months! =) ) We talked a lot about how the mission purpose, the doctrine of Christ, and the Gospel of Christ are related, and the differences between the three. It was really interesting. (We also got to eat at McDonald`s in the Guayaquil bus terminal and that was an extra plus. =) )
If things go well I think we`ll have our first baptism this week, a sister named Gloria, and her daughter Melissa. I really hope that they will be able to stay faithful and excited in this last week because this is when Satan really works the hardest to try and make them doubt themselves. But they are a great family and I`m really excited and hopeful for them.
The rainy season is just about to start, and I`ve heard that during the winter months from December to April it is even more hot because of all the added humidity.  I've also heard that the river overflows into the streets by our house, so that`ll be intersting haha.
I hope you all enjoy your Thanksgiving, and that you eat some pie for me. ;)
Lots of Love,
Elder Hales.
PS Sorry it`s so short this week but the internet is very slow today, and it took almost half an hour to write to our president. :p but know that I`m doing well and love you all a lot. =)

Monday, November 17, 2014

My Dear Family,
My week here was really crazy! I can`t believe so much has happened. I always try and take my journal with me to cyber so I can try and remember all the things I`ve done, and flipping through it feels like a lot of things have happened in just seven days.
On Monday we had our first FHE with a family here. It was so fun. We watched a couple of Mormon messages on a flash drive that Elder Lizana has, and then played a couple games with the familiy, and had patacones, (crushed slices from green bananas fried in vegatable oil, that taste just like french fries and are so good! haha =) ) Their family has been doing so well and are always so nice to us.
Then my next two days were really hectic because I had an intercambio with another gringo that`s been here for the same amount of time that I`ve been here. Yikes! But I was really happy with how the day went, and more surprising than anything else is that we weren`t totally lost the whole day haha. It has been such a miracle I`ve seen that all the Americans here have been able to pick up Spanish so quickly.
And then Wednesday I had another companionship interchange with someone that only has a month and a half here as well. His name is Elder Suarez from Venezuela, and that was a lot less frantic because at least I was with someone that spoke the language. (He is really elegant with his Spanish, probably because he`s had three years in college studying to be a lawyer haha)
And then Sunday was super excting as well. Our mission president put a goal on our zone for each companionship to bring 5 investigators to church. Elder Lizana and I were praying very hard to try and meet the goal. My testimony was strengthened a little of the reality that God answers our prayers usually through other people. Mariza Banchen was a less active member that we recently rescued, and through just references from her we had five investigators at church. I was so happy, and I really think their family is too. =)
I can`t believe Jacob is almost 16! That`s so crazy. (What`s really weird is thinking that by the time I get back he`ll be starting his senior year!) And I hope he takes good care of my car ;)
I`m glad Isaac and Joseph are having fun with their rooms, and I hope they stay out of too much trouble, (read and practice your piano =) )
I hope everything goes well this week.
Lots of love and lots of luck,
Elder Hales =)

PS Your christmas package arrived in the mail today and I have some bad news. There is a $61 fee that the company is charging me here now that it`s arrived.  Anyways, I`m going to use my debit card for the first time to pay for it. Sorry it`s been such a hassle. :P

Monday, November 10, 2014

My Dear Family! =)
I`m so glad that things are going so well at home! I was really happy to hear that your meeting was such a success Mom, I was really praying hard that things would work out for the best. =)
That`s so exciting about the Primary program, I don`t know if our Primary even sings here (ha ha), but I know the Primary president. She`s really nice and invited us to her house for paticones this last Sunday. (They test like french fries but are made from green bananas, and they`re really good!)
But I`m excited that everyone is keeping busy this fall. It was always hard for me to find things to do when the weather started getting cold. It`s really weird to think that Christmas is just around the corner, (Maybe because the really hot summer wet season is starting here ha ha.)
This week we had our first ward activity, an open house of the chapel. It was very interesting to say the least. It`s so funny sometimes how the members here act. We started the tour in our branch president`s office where he gave us a very profound lecture on the stick of Judah and the Stick of Joseph as proof of the Book of Mormon, and the literal gathering of the 10 lost tribes of Israel. And then I don`t think the elder`s quorum president wanted to be outdone in the category of deep doctrine so he started the lesson by having us listen to the first 3 verses of A Poor Wayfaring Man of Grief and then we had a 30 minute lesson on the three pillars of the plan of salvation, with an emphasis on the fall of Adam and use of the priesthood in blessing our homes. I don`t think they`ve had much experience teaching investigators because I`ve come to learn that you really need to explain things like you`re teaching a child, because they just have no spiritual background. In our booth we taught the first 6 Articles of Faith, and that seemed to go okay so that was good. =) (At least no one had a glazed over expression on their faces haha ;) )
Speaking of funny things this week, the highlight of my Saturday was when I met a guy from Florida here who literally spoke no Spanish. Elder Lizana and I were passing him in the street, and Elder Lizana stopped to talk to him, saying the usual ``¿como esta hermano? ¿come le va?`` and just silence. Elder Lizana was super afraid because he was more or less six feet two, and African American, and was just staring at Elder Lizana. After a moment he said ``ya no hable, no hablo`` in a really thick southern accent. And so then I got to have a fun contact with him in English! It was actually weird to hear my own voice in English, and every other sentence I would say something like, ``en serio?`` and then have to correct myself. He`s only here for a week teaching a basketball clinic, but it was just a really funny experience.
This Sunday was really great too! We ended our dry spell of two weeks in a row without an investigator in Sacrament meeting, and I got to give a talk yesterday on obedience. It was okay, but I think our president wanted a little more of a machete for the members;)
Everything is going well here, and I hope you guys are having fun. Stay safe this week!
Lots of love,
Elder Hales
P.S Yes, I think I`ll be able to skype! But I`ll have to download it to one of the computers at a member`s house but I think we`ll be able to. =)

Jonathan's land lady put up this poster in their apartment.

Monday, November 3, 2014

My Dear Family,
Mom, thank you so much for fasting for us. We had a very interesting Sunday as well. We switched from 9 AM to 10 AM so we could have Sacrament Meeting first, but apparently half the members forgot, because there were about 30 more or less people there at 9 AM. Our branch president also gave everyone an hour long machete about paying tithing third hour. I thought it was very funny to hear so many different views on tithing from the members. (Many were under the impression that tithing was 10 percent of whatever you had left over at the end of the week.) That`s one thing that has been very hard to learn and get used to here. Latinos just think differently than us gringos. hahaha!

It`s really hard to tell Sunday from any other here. There really isn`t a divide at all with the people in the city. There is still very loud music in the street, and if anything the main difference is that there are more borachos in the street. It reminds me of how lucky we are to have this restored gospel to help guide our lives! =)

Dad, I`m not living out of my suitcase, but it does make for a nice nightstand. =)

That`s fun that everyone had a Happy Halloween! Here Halloween came and went and you wouldn`t have known the difference. I thought we were out of the woods, but the main celebration is on the night of the 1st of November. And let`s just say that the people in Vinces know how to party, and don`t let silly things like sunsets, (and eventually sunrises ;) ) distract them. Today is actually a national holiday and almost every Cyber bazar is closed and there are a lot of people waiting for the computers, so I`m sorry this week is a little short. Lot`s of exciting goals for November! It`s crazy to think that an 8th of my mission is already done. I still feel very new to the field.

Lot`s of Love,
Elder Hales. =)

Monday, October 27, 2014

Hola Familia!
Dad I`m so glad your birthday was so much fun, and Mom I`m glad your meeting with the missionaries was such a success! It`s funny that they added an extra verse to Called to Serve. We don`t sing it that much because in Spanish it actually has four verses and is a bit lengthy to start our companionship study with haha =)
That`s so exciting to hear about Jacob`s great race! He is such a hard worker and hopefully this means he can go to Ultimate a little more often too ;) (when he`s not practicing piano and chior por su puesto ;) )
I`m glad Isaac is keeping busy with Baptisms for the dead, and school. How did Joseph do in his last soccer game?
For me this week was pretty regular except we had district conference, and that was really exciting because our president came and talked in every session! I didn`t know that he was the presiding authority in districts, ( the equivalent of stakes for branches) and the District President only gave one talk. It was a little stressful too because I got to play the piano for all the meetings. Saturday morning they just pulled me out of the benches and asked if could play. I didn`t pay that much attention to the talks because I was frantically trying to practice the songs on my lap, but I was really blessed that things went well. =)
It was also fun to see the district choir, but that did make me miss you, Mom and Dad, thinking about the fun memories I had with you two in stake choir (and Emily when she didn`t want to sit with her brothers for stake conference ;) ) Like I`ve said before, Latinos sing very loudly, independent of note. haha
We are now working with 9 families and are really hoping to help them progress! It`s really exciting to see how the Lord has prepared the people here for us. 
Halloween isn`t really that big of a deal here, but everyone is already starting to make preparations for New Year's. Apparently that is massive every year, and they make these really huge sculptures of American cartoon characters. I`ll have to see if we can get some pictures of those because they`re really cool!
Thank you so much for all your prayers and love, and I hope all of you have a good week!
Love Elder Hales. =)
Jonathan's bed

the kitchen

Monday, October 20, 2014

Dear Family,
I was really sad to hear that Brother Jones passed away. I never really thought of him as old because he had such a lively personality, but I guess the Lord needed his powerful missionary skills on the other side. Things like this though are always such a powerful testimony builder in the lessons of the kindness and support of the members, and I know that Judy is going to be okay. (Brother Jones is our next door neighbor who passed away this week from a massive heart attack.  He was 73.)

That`s so fun that you got to see the Alta Marching Band perform!
How fun that everyone got to go to the Homecoming Spectacular at BYU! I remember going just a few years ago as a family and now I am much more impressed by the Alumni they honored that spoke 8 different languages haha.

I`m happy to hear that the best pianist I know has been able to use her talents in the ward! And I know that the Christmas program will be very special. At first I was worried about playing in our branch meetings, but I`ll let you in on a secret. I don`t want to sound stereotypical, but Latinos cannot sing very well so I`m less worried about how my piano playing will sound haha.

This week was a bit exhausting I won`t lie, but I think that`ll get better when I`m more used to the mission lifestyle. (Maybe we can hope ;) )
This Wednesday I had a companionship change with Elder Penny, (I don`t know what they`re called in the States, but here they`re called intercambios or inter changes) and he is a great missionary, but the exact opposite of Elder Lizana in almost every way. For just one example, Elder Lizana and I usually wait to challenge people to be baptized until after they`ve had a complete lesson, but with Elder Penny he asks everyone we talk to in the streets to set a date to be baptized, and if they`re not married, he sets a matrimonial date for them as well. So on Wednesday we had 8 new baptismal dates, but on Thursday and Friday none of them would open their doors for us again. It`s interesting how many different ways there are to interpret Preach my Gospel, and I`m excited to see how my life and perspective on the work of salvation progresses.

I learned this week too why Vinces is so poor, and even though it has a relatively large population (71,000 ish), everyone is SUPER dependent on Guayaquil. At least once or twice a week people will go there and do all the things they can`t do here, like send letters and packages, or buy things that are not food or clothing. Because the big city is so close, they don`t feel the need to develop for themselves, so they don`t. (I asked Jonathan how far away Guayaquil is and he said 1 1/4 hours by day bus and 2 hours by the night bus.)

But I know that this is where the Lord needs me to be serving, and I`m so happy that I have this chance to help others (even if the showers are cold ;) )
Lots of Love,
Elder Hales. =)

Monday, October 13, 2014

Querido Familia,
The time sure flies sometimes, and I can`t believe it`s that time of the week again for letters! This week definitely had it`s ups and downs, but like Kyle said a little while ago, that`s the mission life I guess haha =)
A lot of our appointments fell through on Tuesday and Thursday, (and Wednesday is our day of just contacting) so it felt a little discouraging, but there were always moments of Grace that I could feel every day! On Wednesday, Elder Lizana was called as the new district leader, so I`ve had an extra hour of study two or three times a week while he`s conducting the baptismal interviews for the district, and I read a really good talk about how we can be happier and more successful, even in our times of trial. It`s called ``It`s Better to Look Up`` and I think it`s from a 2011 conference. It really helped me remember that our loving Heavenly Father is here for us, and it`s better to look up than at your feet. =)

It really came at a time of need for me because we were supposed to have a baptismal service this Saturday, but it fell through. Marcos Aguirre seemed so ready, and excited for his baptism everyday this week, but when we called him on Saturday (the day of) his cell phone was off, so we went to his house to drop off the baptismal clothes. He came outside and told us he couldn`t be baptized because he was moving to another town about an hour and a half away, but Elder Lizana is pretty sure there was more to the story. (I`m still a little confused about what happened because he has a really thick accent.) Elder Lizana told me that`s sadly pretty common here. He said that all the time people are preparing and receiving the lessons, and then on the day of their service, they have a relapse in an addiction, or some other thing that impedes their progression. It was really disappointing, but I think it`ll be a good lesson of loving and helping the people.

But Sunday was a great day, like it always is =). We were able to work really hard with our branch mission leader, (to answer your question Mom there are two branches in Vinces and no wards) and we have two new baptismal dates for the first of November! It was a great reminder that when one door closes another opens, and we just have to look for it. =)

That`s so exciting about Jacob in mountain biking! And Jacob I think a first place state trophy would be a great birthday gift for Dad. ;) (Sorry brief pause here for technical difficulties, something really weird just happened to the computer, and all the settings are in spanish haha.) 
Okay, I didn`t figure it out, but I can still type so that`s good haha =) 

It`s really cool that you`re going to go see the Alta Marching Band this Wednesday! I think It`s great that you`re keeping your ties with such a great school really strong. ;)

I love you all so much! Good luck this week! 
Elder Hales. =)

Monday, October 6, 2014

My Dearest Family,
WOW things are so busy here, but I guess that`s what I signed up for haha! 
On Monday after writing I got your package! Thank you all so much! One thing though that I forgot to tell you is that there`s a 2 Kilogram law in Ecuador, which means that all packages that weigh more than like 4.3 pounds need to go through customs and usually don`t end up making it all the way. Thanks again for all that you`ve done to support me. I remember thinking all throughout the conference talks about what parents can do to have a strong family in the gospel and thinking, "wow I`m so blessed to have had such loving and supportive parents and siblings." =)

On Wednesday I had my first ever companionship interchange with our zone leader who lives just across the block named Elder Shepard. Wednesdays here are our day of contacting, and our president has asked us that we only have 15 minute lessons with our families that have baptism dates, and then contact for the rest of the day so that was a really interesting experience! It was nice being with Elder Shepard for that because he could tell me things that I needed to do better in the actual lesson (in English) haha. And we even got another baptismal date through contacting! His name is Luis, he's 19, and he has a few friends who are members, and now we're teaching him and his less active friend!

And then there was conference. I don't think I'll ever take for granted the privilege it is to be able to hear from the actual voice from the prophet, because for the first little bit we were watching in another room in Spanish with English subtitles. There are only like two translators so all the speakers sounded the same haha. Luckily we were able to figure out how to connect the branch computer to English stream and we were able to watch the rest of conference online!

That's so great about your races Isaac and Jacob! Stormy sent me a picture of Jacob crossing the finish line, and it looked very impressive. =) Joseph will you score another goal in your next soccer game for me? =) 

I can`t believe that it`s already October, where does the time go? haha
Vinces is a very interesting place to say the least. Our branch had an attendance of 65 last week, so it`s pretty small. One of the biggest problems here is that there really isn`t very much priesthood. Part of the problem is that the previous president of the mission had the missionaries baptize everyone who was worthy and able, but the parents of families won`t make changes to prepare for baptism and so there are a lot of part member families where just the children are members, and then less active members. But the church is pretty well know here, and almost no one hasn`t heard of the church, which makes contacting a lot easier.

We had an interesting experience with a women we met contacting yesterday. She couldn't walk because she had a serious injury in her knee, and had scars all up her left leg from a bus crash two years ago when she was going to Guayaquil. 11 people died, including two of her grandchildren. She doesn't live in Vinces, she was just visiting for the day, but she was really interested and humble as we taught her about the plan of salvation. It makes me wonder what the Lord's plan is for her, and I hope we were able to help her a little in her eternal journey.

I love you all so much! Good luck this week!
Elder Hales

Monday, September 29, 2014

It´s so crazy that I´m writing from Ecuador for the first time. It already feels like I´ve been here for a while, (not that I´m anxious to leave, I think I´ve just settled into the schedule of a mission finally.)
I have no Idea where to start, so I´m just going to try going from Wednesday and hopefully I don´t forget anything. =)
I met my trainer after we wrote letters and got back from the temple! He´s an incredibly fun guy, from inland Peru, and only knows probably 30 words in English, (his favorite thing to say when something doesn´t work is ´fetch´ haha!) At first it was difficult to understand him, but my Spanish has really improved since my first day here, because we can literally only communicate in Spanish. He´s a great missionary that loves to follow the rules like me so we´re keeping a pretty tight agenda.
After a couple more meetings with the missionaries that work in the offices, we had a two and a half hour bus ride to our first area. That was an adventure all by itself, trying to sleep while Transformers 3 was playing in Spanish. (I almost burst out laughing when I heard ´´autobots, Vamanos!!´´ for the first time.)  It´s a pretty small city called Vinces, and we´re in one of the most poor parts of northern Ecuador. Unfortunately that means we don´t have a post office, and our mission is only connected to pouch. That means we can´t send anything back to the states through it, only recieve letters. I was really dissapointed to find that out, but I know this is where the Lord needs me. =)
We were busy at work the next morning. After study and District meeting, we meet with the Ward mission leader, and went to visit the less active members, and the recent converts. Our sector was just opened in the mission, so we didn´t have anywhere to start with investigators, but Elder Lizana and I are hard at work trying to find 15 familias to teach (that´s the mission standard of excellence) and so far we have 5 families that we´re teaching, and three of them have baptismal dates! The biggest thing that´s keeping people from baptism here is the Law of Chastity, because almost no one here is officially married in a civil service. That´s probably the biggest test of faith for the people here, but we´ve found that the best approach is to teach the people how families can be eternal if we do what the Lord commands.
The language is coming a little more ever day, and on Saturday I even got to take the lead in teaching about the restoration a couple of times and gave the Baptismal challenge! Beatriz and her daughter Katey have a date set for the 18th of October, but that´s going to have to change because they didn´t come to church yesterday. We knocked on their door for half an hour in three ten minute intervals, but they didn´t answer and we were devastated. Hopefully we´ll be able to contact them today, because they seemed really interested.
Church was great yesterday, and I´m officially the new branch pianist (I´m sure your so proud mom ;) ) and we had three of our five familias at church!
Things are going well here, and I´ve already seen so many miracles. Thanks so much for all your love! 
Elder Hales

Thursday, September 25, 2014

i Hola Familia!

I'm doing very well here in Ecuador.  It is crazy that I'm finally out in the field.  I'm just writing to say that I'm safe here in the mission home.  Tomorrow will be a really busy day.  We're doing an 8:00 morning session and then I'm meeting my companero for the first time.  Our president is really nice. Both he and his wife picked us up at the airport!

I'm so excited to be here, getting to teach people! I hope things are going well back home and that everyone is feeling better.

I love you guys so much!  Good luck this week, and I'll see you next Monday.
Elder Hales

We've got a couple more minutes to write, so I thought I'd just add a couple more sentences.  The people here seem really loving and really kind.  We've been talking about mission goals and we have a goal to always have 15 familias we're teaching at any given time, that are preparing for baptism. I've only been here for 5 hours, but I'm learning so much.  Hasta Lunes!

Thanks for all you do to support me.  Mom, could you send me a French toast recipe?
Jonathan with his new companion
Jonathan with President and Sister Riggins

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Hola Familia!
Wow! This week was jam packed with lot´s of incredible things! It´s really weird thinking that today is the last time I´m going to email you from the CCM, but If I want to remember everything I should probably start at the beginning (ha ha).

So last Tuesday right after we emailed I went to check the mail and got four letters! Two from Tennessee, and two from Mom (one of which was dated August 12th, which is crazy that it took so long to get here!) There´s another Elder in our district with the first name of Jonathan, and when he saw there were four letters in the mailbox and that the top one was for a Jonathan he was pretty excited, but not as much as I was because I got every letter. ;) We watched a video of a talk Elder Holland gave to the Provo MTC last year, and it was really incredible. I can´t believe that he was at the Corner Canyon Football game! And I´m sure he was very impressed with Jacob´s singing. ;) Tonight we have a devotional that´s being broadcast live from Provo, so I have my fingers crossed it will be another general authority. =) On Thursday, Elder Bagley and I had a really special experience with one of our investigators. We have two teachers here, one in the morning and one in the afternoon, and both pretend to be investigators for us for one of our hours of instruction. Our morning investigator´s baptism date is this week, and he brought in the actual person he was pretending to be, his father-in-law. So we got to meet the actual investigator, and his whole family which was really cool.

This Sunday was interesting as well, very bitter sweet. I was asked to give a talk in sacrament meeting, which is always a little scary because everyone writes a talk, but we don´t know who´s speaking until the actual meeting.

The first week we got here our whole district was a little frazzled and lost in our district games we play on PDay as expected, but the district across the hall which had been there for one week longer than us pretty much became our older brother district for the time we were here (which is kind of a weird concept because I was actually older than a lot of the Elders in 14A, but they seemed older because they had been here longer.) These 14A missionaries have now left for their missions. Hopefully we´ll be able to see them again because a lot of them are going to go to BYU after their service, and their whole district minus like two Elders are going to a Salt Lake City Spanish speaking mission! So if you see an Elder Bombauk, Matson, Wheeler, Bennet,  Hoopes, or Meadows, then you should definitely say hello. =)

Then yesterday was the Mexico equivalent of the Fourth of July, and saying they like to party here is a bit of an understatement! We had a special ´´cultural building activity´´ where we got to watch a show put on by a group of Spanish dancers for an hour and a half, and that was really interesting and fun. But we didn´t exactly get much sleep last night (ha ha). But it was a nice change to the routine here. I honestly don´t know how Dad was able to stay in the MTC for 12 weeks! (ha ha)

Today has been a blast so far though, because we got to go to the temple in the morning! (That´s why I´m writing so much later today) It was such a good experience, even though the actual temple is closed right now. We got to take a tour of the visitors center, and at the distribution center I was able to get a Spanish Primary book, and a Mayan copy of the Book of Mormon! I was so excited! This is by far the best four dollars I´ve ever spent. =D Our afternoon teacher, Hermano Silva, came with his novia to say hola, and get a few pictures with us at the temple. I was actually pretty happy that Bedstamor sent me the pictures of the Sun and Moon pyramids because they sort of modeled the temple to look like those. 

I´m so happy things are going well at home! Best of luck! See you next week in Ecuador!
Elder Hales
Jonathan's district in front of the Mexico City Temple

 A tree full of bees

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Hola Familia!

Mom I got your letter this week! Thank you so much. It was a really fun surprise! It´s the first one I´ve gotten here from back home so like I was expecting the mail is pretty slow. It´s so crazy to think that after today I only have one more P-day before I´m in the field!

I was very excited to hear that in the world of athletics the Hales family was killing it this week. Joseph way to go on scoring a goal! Mom told me that you just dribbled through all the defenders and shot! I scored my first goal here as well this week, haha ;) I´ve actually been pretty impressed with how my soccer has been improving. Isaac congratulations on your bike race! That´s so cool that you were able to do that, especially since you were competing in the intermediate division! I´m so proud of you! And way to go Jacob on getting on the podium at your race. And just think this is only the beginning of the season, there´s only room to grow, and I´m sure all your coaches were really impressed. 

It poured this week here, so much that they canceled gym time one day because there were just too many people in the gym because no one could go outside. Naturally my comp wanted to go outside and play on the playground by our house left over from the days when the CCM was still a school. (Don´t worry I got a good picture ;) ) The wet season is apparently just starting, so I´ll arrive in Ecuador just in time to use my rain boots haha.

This week was pretty good for Spanish. I was able to memorize five scriptures, and I can pretty much understand everything our teachers are saying in class now, so that´s good. And I think my biggest accomplishment was that I finally learned how to roll my erres (the spanish double r rolls) after like two weeks of practice! Everyone in my district was also pretty pleased, because now I´ve stopped trying to say words like, arripentamiento, ferril carril, and barrio over and over again haha. 

That´s so cool, Mom, that you were able to go to the Salt Lake Temple this week. Every Sunday we watch a video here and three weeks ago we watched one about the construction of the Salt Lake Temple. It´s really crazy how much work went into the temple. I can´t imagine the faith it would take to start over again after 9 years of work, and uproot the entire foundation.

Elder Bagley and I had our first baptism commitment yesterday, and if it felt that exciting with a fake investigator I can´t imagine what it would be like with a real one! It´s crazy thinking that in fourteen days I´ll be flying out of here. I don´t have an official day yet, but it should be either the 22nd or the 23rd. 

I love you guys so much! Good luck in school, and at work, and at home, (and in your piano practicing ;) )
Elder Hales

P.S Dad is really doing well with the scriptures I´ve sent him, how about this one,

´´Porque no me averg├╝envo del evangelio de Cristo, Porque es poder de Dios para salvacion a todo aquel que cree. Al Judio primeramente, y tambien al griego.´´ 

PPS I was really excited to hear about BYU Football! That´s such an incredible victory! Too bad we aren´t playing Utah this year.

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Hola Familia!
So many fun and interesting things are happening here. =) 
This Wednesday I went to the Post Office and there was a little notecard with Spanish vocabulary on it, and Hermana Wainwright´s (Jessica From Band) name was on the top corner, so I thought I would just give it to her in the comador at dinner. When I went and talked to her, her companion looked at my name tag and saw my name was Elder Hales. She then asked me if I knew a Kyle Mahony who served a mission in Oklahoma. It turns out that Kyle was the Elder that taught the lessons and baptized this family. Now she´s going on a mission! It´s such a small world in the gospel sometimes. Her name is Hermana Bradshaw. =D We´re keeping really busy, but our district has also started a P-Day olympics, including white board curling, pen high jumping, and a couple of other track and field events haha.It´s pretty much a blast, and don´t worry I got pictures. :) 

It´s weird thinking that today I´m officially halfway done with my time in the CCM.  I´ve gotten into a pretty good rhythm now. The food here is pretty good, it´s cafeteria style Mexican food, but there are always sandwiches everyday if you´d rather have that, and every Tuesday is pizza night from Costco, so that just makes P-Day even better. =)

Elder Waters used to run cross country in high school and convinced our casa to start an 8 minute abs workout every night, so we´re pretty sore in the mornings, but it´s a lot of fun, and everyone gets to know each other better because talking helps you take your mind off of planks. ;) 

Sundays are always a blast here, (except there´s a little tension during Sacrament Meeting, because no one knows who´s going to be speaking. President Pratt came and visited our Branch Sacrament Meeting last week haha) but we always have two devotionals that are so great, one by the Mission President in person, and then we watch a video of one of the apostle´s speaking to missionaries in the Provo MTC. They tell us to take really good notes, because what the brothers say in the MTC is not in the public church domain. They´re always so powerful! 

Things feel familiar here, like the bathrooms and the branch buildings are just like every church building in the United States, but at the same time there are constant reminders of how far away you are from home. I think the biggest one is probably the massive Mexico flag that hangs in the center of the CCM. It´s hard sometimes, but the Lord has confirmed to me so many times that this is what I´m supposed to be doing.
 In Mexico, Dora speaks English:)
The white board curling game score

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Hola Familia!
Things are going very well here, but I think one Elder said it best when he said the days feel like weeks, but the weeks feel like days. But one thing is for sure, everyone loves P-day!
We just taught the first lesson to our second investigator Luis, who is interested in the church because he just lost a nephew who was serving a mission, and I think Elder Bagley and I did pretty well. It´s incredible how much Spanish is here. We just got a new teacher this last week, who really laid down the law. As a district our goal is to learn 25 new Spanish words a day, 6 Spanish phrases, and a scripture every day! The thing that´s killing a lot of people though is the HSI rule, (Habla su Idioma, or speak your language.) Here at the CCM you´re supposed to use all the Spanish you know at all times. The first thing Hermano Silva said to us when he walked into the room was,´´How do you say God, Brother and Sister, in Spanish?´´ After we answered him he said, ´´Okay I never want to hear you say the words God, Brother or Sister again, understand?´´ The new rule is if you´re caught saying a word in English that you know in Spanish you need to do 25 push ups haha. 
During gym our district has started playing cage soccer with district 14A, and it´s so fun. All those crazy games in the back yard with my brothers are really paying off. When I get back I bet I can give Jacob a good run for his money. ;)

It´s so weird to think that school is starting and things are winding back into their standard routine back home. How Is Isaac enjoying the 7th Grade? I was really sad to hear about Joseph, and I hope he´s doing better. Is Jacob enjoying choir so far? Is he excited for the first Ultimate practice on Friday? How are things at the devil´s high school? ;)  

The days are really starting to blur together here, which I´m not sure if that´s a good thing or not. We have the exact same schedule for everyday except P-day and Sunday which is always a good experience, (unless you´re called to speak and the mission president is visiting that week haha). It´s crazy thinking I´ve already been out here for two weeks. My life is so incredibly different now than before, but I´m excited I get this chance to serve the Lord.
Lots of love 
Elder Hales

P.S. If you still want some Spanish sentences I can give you some lines of verses I´m memorizing in Spanish. It will be your job to find the reference. ;)

´´ temo lo que El hombre haga, porque el amor perfecto desecha todo temor.´´

houses by the MTC in Mexico City

the MTC

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Hello Family!!
         Things are a lot different here in Mexico but I guess I should tell you everything in order so I don`t leave anything out. =D
         The flights were good, but naturally I was really tired. There were five of us flying out from Salt Lake, Elder Bagley, Elder Cummons, Elder Noel, Elder Fulmner, and Elder Hales! The flight to Dallas was fine, but a really sweet man in first class with a missionary in Korea bought us water and a snack on the plane. He was so sweet! When we landed we met up with 9 more missionaries in Texas so we had a party of 14 flying down to Mexico City. On the plane ride there, Elder Cummons and I were able to talk to a Latino woman sitting next to us (because she spoke flawless english haha) but she was really interested in what he had to tell her about The Book of Mormon and she took my extra Libro de Mormon and read it the whole flight down to Mexico! It´s so exciting to be a servant of the Lord.
          When we arrived in Mexico, there were about 75 missionaries in the airport, and the line to get through customs was crazy! The bus ride there was a little scary as well because let`s just say that there are not a lot of traffic laws in Mexico. But at about 6:30 we finally arrived at the CCM in one piece. When I got there Elder Gardner and Elder Jolly came up and said hello which was really nice because everything here feels foreign. Even the keyboard I´m writing on is in Spanish, so I have to use an accent key instead of an apostrophe haha. Everything is in Spanish, and the teachers only speak to us in Spanish which has made learning the lessons a little difficult, but I´ve already learned a lot! It`s insane how fast the pace is here. Our first real day was Thursday, and we were already teaching our first investigator on Friday, and it had to be 100% in Spanish. I´m pretty sure it wasn´t real though because I saw he was wearing garments haha. It was really difficult at first, but it´s getting easier every time and we´ve already taught him 3 times. 
          My compa├▒ero is Elder Bagley, (the same Elder I met on my flight here) and he went to Skyline High School. He´s pretty fun and relaxed about everything, which is cool but I have to make sure we get to meetings on time. We only get an hour in the computer lab, and I spent most of that reading all the great letters I got, so I have to go. I love you guys so much!!
Good luck with your week and I´ll see you next dia de preporation. ;)
Elder Hales