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