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