Monday, October 28, 2013

MY FIRST MISSION BIRTHDAY!!


Hello family & friends!!
I´m so limited on time! I have 1 hour to write my letter to the President, read my emails, upload pictures, and respond. But I´ll type fast on this strange keyboard! 
To respond to the package question: pictures would really be the best things to send. I love seeing a little bit of what everybody´s doing in their life and how they´re changing. Treats are always good too!  :D
 
Tell Grammie I love her and I’ll pray for her that her surgery will go well. I'm sorry I haven´t been able to write her since I got in Brazil. It´s going to be very difficult to send any mail from to the US. The other Elders never write home and it doesn't seem like they would even know what to do if they wanted to. I´ll figure it out, but it will take a while. 
Everybody sounds like they are doing very well. I wish I could take a ton of time and respond to you each individually. 
Elder Ramos and Me
Anyway, so what´s been going on in my life for the past week? 
Elder Ramos is awesome! He´s always smiling. He's a very young missionary, only 19 years old (like me!) and only has been out for 6 months. It's very unusual for someone who has only been out for 6 months to train and be a district leader. Elder Ramos is really an excellent missionary. He's from Sao Paulo and has been a member his whole life. Like I said, he's always smiling, joking, and whatever else. He also speaks 0 English. Nada. But we can communicate pretty well. He loves music, and we have had a blast playing/singing hymns on my violin and his vocal chords. 
Elder Ramos!!
The best thing about him is his teaching ability! You would never guess that this carefree, jolly, black-Santa Claus character can teach the gospel like an apostle, but you´d better believe it!  I'm struggling to keep up with his absolute love for the Gospel. I could listen to him teach forever.  He's really great. I couldn't ask for a better companion. 

There is nothing to complain about here!! The food is awesome, the people are spectacular (and willing to hear a message about Jesus Christ), and life is good!  I´m so happy here. Everybody is so nice, respectful, and happy in this area. I love it. It is very hot, but I like the hot much more than the cold!
View from our window
The language is coming a bit slower than I thought it would. Of course I've only been out for 2 weeks. I can understand about 70% of a conversation, but because I missed the 30% I have no idea what the conversation was about. I've learned that when I take an active part in the conversation I understand much more because I am concentrating on what´s going on. It´s really easy for me to drift off and get lost. 

Study area in our home
I live about 15 minutes (walking) from my proselyting area. It´s cool! Elder Ashby told me it is the best house in the mission by far, so I’m happy. There are several local bars nearby, so we always go to sleep to the sound of parties, drinking, and dancing. I think Elder Ramos could probably out-dance everybody out there, but we haven´t tested that yet. We´ll save that for later. 
We walk a ridiculous amount. I will need to buy the boot-type shoes the other Elders wear. They´re normally used for construction purposes, but I guess missionary work fits in too. 
They don´t have normal "family home evenings" around here. Instead its called noite familiar and I like it much better. Basically once a week the branch meets at one of the members’ homes and they have family home evening and food. Sometimes they can have 40-50 people at one time. This is great for missionary member-friend shipping purposes, because it´s a really low-stress way for investigators to get to know the members. 
Elder Gondim insisted that I bring my violin to one of the noite familiars. I didn't protest too much!  I played my violin while everybody else sang hymns, it was awesome! Brazilians are so open and friendly and willing to have fun. 
The teaching pool is great! We started with nothing, because we´re basically opening this area. We are able to teach a ton of people when contacting. Everyone is willing to hear our message. They may not like it, change because of it, or realistically impact our key-indicators in major ways, but there isn´t anyone here that doesn´t have the hospitality to listen to a short message about Jesus Christ. Elder Ashby tells me that this is the 2nd highest baptizing mission in the world, and I understand why. 
Our church building
We contacted an awesome family our first day working in our area. It´s a collection of about 6 adults that live in surrounding houses. They love to sit around the house and talk. We taught the Restoration and one of the men said that he didn't need to pray about it...he already knew it was true! Not all of them were that excited, but the man and his wife and son were willing to come to church. They came and stayed for the baptismal service Elders Ashby and Gondim were having (They baptized 5 people that day!) and said afterwards that they were very excited for the day when they could get baptized as well! He probably thought I had been slapped in the face I was so happy. That´s basically a missionaries dream phrase!  We have some other investigators, but they are the only ones that came to church. 
Anyhow, my birthday! 
As a preface: Elder Ramos and I needed to travel to Belém for my interview with the President. I knew Lhaylla´s father had dropped something off at the mission office from your last letter, but I didn't know what it was. I asked if anything for Elder Gale had been dropped off and the secretaries told me no. I was a bit surprised and looked around a bit. Finally, I saw this large celebration package tucked in the corner of the room. I asked whose it was and they said they had no idea; someone had dropped it off without a missionary’s name on it. I looked at it and it said something like "For Lhaylla´s Friend" and then signed by her father. I claimed it with glee! Please tell Lhaylla and her father that I am so very grateful for their generosity. The package had a ton of cakes, fruit, and chocolates. I was a very happy camper! 
Birthday fruit from Elder Ashby!
This was the day before my birthday. My actual birthday was even better! Credit to Elder Ashby, he really made it memorable for me. I woke up to my first present Elder Ashby had bought me, (you can see in the pictures) a strange fruit I totally forgot the name of. It looks kind of like a pineapple from the outside, but the inside had a strange squishy fruity substance that is absolutely delicious. 
Elder Gale, Elder Ashby, and the unnamed birthday fruit!

Time to dig in!!  Go Elder Ramos!
Then, after lunch, we went home to grab some things. I walked in to the other Elders singing happy birthday to me! Elder Ashby had made me a cake and bought soda! We had a mini party. It was splendid. 
YUM! 

My 19th birthday cake made by Elder Ashby!

The egg smashing birthday tradition!

And then, for the crowning birthday event.  I walked in at night to the other elders filming me and telling me to close my eyes. I did. They told me to open my hands. I did. 

And then...



They smashed two eggs on my head. What? I know, a bit gross, weird, and stained my shirt. But I took it as a symbol of Elderly love. <3
Anyways, I love you all. 
Called to Serve, 
Elder Gale
Feeling the birthday love through smashed eggs on my head!

Monday, October 21, 2013

ELDER GALE vs BRASIL, CAPITULO 1

Hello my wonderful family, friends, and everyone else!

I´m going to take a bit longer on typing this email because the keyboard here is super different. Well...I feel like it´s different.   I´ll just go ahead and write a narrative. 

So y´all know everything that happened up until I left for Sao Paulo. Well, when I got off the phone I ran up with Elder Daines and everybody had already boarded the plane! We were super late. I guess they had been paging us but we hadn´t heard them. 

The plane ride was pretty mentally exhaustive. I couldn´t seem to sleep. There were about half Brazilians and half Americans on the plane. I sat next to Elder Daines. The lady on my left held a baby who sang songs in Portuguese and the man on the right of Elder Daines was a lawyer headed to Uruguay for work. 

We arrived in Sao Paulo (which was very crowded and a bit dirty) and we found our flight to Belém. I had no problems with my overweight backpack, my overweight carry-on item (violin), and my overweight suitcase. I think all those restrictions were made up or something. 
Arriving in Belem!
On the flight, I sat in between two Brazilians who spoke nada English. We had a good conversation about music, religion, work, and lots of other things. It was fun! Looking back, I bet they thought I was a bit crazy. 

President Scisci met us in Belém. I don´t really know what to think of him because I really can’t understand him. He spoke really fast and it all went over my head. He seems really nice, informative, and President-like. 
Elder Gale with President and Sister Scisci
We went to the mission home after that and met the other missionaries who are new in the transfer. Off of the top of my head I remember missionaries from Brasil, Bolivia, Portugal, Argentina, Mexico, Capo Verdi, Cuba, and other places I don´t remember. The culture blending was really quite humorous. 

From what I´ve seen, the majority of missionaries here are not American.  It is really cool to see the missionary force from other countries that I haven´t seen before. 

We had trainings, dinner, and so on. Then we received our companions, or everyone else did. My companion was in an area very far away and was not able to attend the transfer meeting. The next day, I traveled with some other missionaries who were going my same way and they dropped me off at my area. 

To get there, we had to take a bus, a boat, and another bus. The boat was really crowded but cool. People kept looking at me like I was a gringo or something. 

When we arrived at my area, Pioneiro 2, I met my zone leaders, Elder Ashby and Elder Gondim. Elder Ashby is from Arizona and Elder Gondim is from Sao Paulo. I was told there that due to certain travel costs, my companion wouldn´t arrive until Monday! So I worked with the Zone Leader until then. They work Pioneiro 1, so it was the same branch that I would have in the future. 

They are both very cool! Elder Gondim speaks very little English and Elder Ashby doesn´t really like to speak English, so it´s all Portuguese. I am usually able to understand them, but when I talk to members and investigators, I have no idea what they say. The people here have a very thick accent that makes it very difficult for me to understand them and them to understand me. Regardless, I love them all. The people here are incredibly generous and understanding. They will help me with sentences and laugh with me when I don´t understand something. 

So I’m amazed at the faithfulness of the members here. We get fed lunch (the biggest meal of the day) every day except for P-Day. Every Day. These people have almost nothing and they´re feeding us 2-3 times more than we got fed in Chapin! We live in one of the poorest areas in Para, so everyone has very little. 

As for food here...I love it! I´m not sure if I will be able to go back to regular fruit and juice when I return in the future, because here it is so entirely fresh and delicious. I´ve tried multiple fruits here that are only grown here in Para. They are so delicious! The thing that everyone raves about here is the acai. Acai is a berry that can be ground into a kind of juice-soup thing. Elder Ashby gave it to me first without sugar as a joke. I nearly spit it out! I later put in sugar and it was delicious! 
Elder Gondim  and I eating acai for the first time!
I wish I had more time to write! I´ve gotta go. I will meet my companion, Elder Ramos, later today. He is from Sao Paulo. 

Love you all! 
Chamado para servir, 


Elder Gale

Monday, October 14, 2013

THE VISA IS HERE!!!

I got my visa!  Really, truly!! (Jodi's side note--he pranked us last week by saying he got it when he didn't). I'll be able to call you sometime today at the airport. I have increasingly limited time to write this email, but I'm hoping I'll be able to call for a good time today or tomorrow.

I do not have my flight information yet. I have no idea what layovers or anything that will happen. I just know that I'll be traveling with another visa-waiter named Elder Daines. I'm not sure if he's going into my same mission.

I promise I'm telling the truth this time :D

I wrote a letter and will send it before I leave South Carolina.

Thank you so much for the package you sent! I loved everything in it :D You're the best.

I'm sorry I wont be able to answer your email questions in this letter. I'm sure you will have a lot more by next week!

Please answer your phone if an unknown number calls you!

Called to Serve,

Elder Gale


Another side note from Jodi--please keep Elder Carson Gale in your prayers today!  Pray that he will travel safely and that he will be accompanied by all the guardian angels the Lord has on hand for him!

Monday, October 7, 2013

EVEN THE WORST DAY AS A MISSIONARY IS GLORIOUS!

Dear Family & Friends,

Life in South Carolina is fantastic. I adhere to the philosophy of President Holm, "Even the worst day as a missionary is glorious".  I'm actually not sure if that's word for word, so don't quote me on that. I have tons of quotes from him that are fantastic.

But really. Even the worst day when we were rained on and nobody showed up to doors and we were chased down a pitch-black street by a savage dog (I didn't know I could run so fast!) was an awesome day of missionary work. I go to bed happy each day. It's fantastic.

President Holm has a rule about no bringing musical instruments into the mission, so I talked to him about it the first day I came in. He said because my future mission president was ok with it, I could have it with me. He decided it was ok for me to have it at the trailer and that I could practice on P-Days if I so desired. Honestly, I have only been able to use it for about 10 minutes once since I've been here. I'm hoping I'll be able to finish writing letters today and play a little bit. I have not been invited to perform anywhere yet, although I'm thinking about letting President know I am always willing to play at transfer meetings if needed.

I live in Chapin and attend the Chapin Branch. I love it! It is small, but the members are very close and solid. There is one family named the Jacobs that feeds us often. They are very missionary-minded and Brother Jacobs teaches seminary, so they always have an interesting conversation. Another reason I believe they are willing to feed us often is because they have a son on a mission. I hope you all are willing to feed the missionaries occasionally to reciprocate the service of the families around here! We really appreciate it :D.

My most spiritual experiences have been fairly limited by us having no progressing investigators the entire transfer. We have been able to teach several lessons and the Spirit has been strong in all the ones we've taught. I've felt strengthened several times when on a grueling bike ride and having no energy left. The leadership training meetings and general conference were very uplifting meetings. I think I related my experience with the mission's own "sacred grove" and my encounter with Tim and Grant. We talk to many people each day and share our faith and knowledge of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, but none of those experiences really stand out from one another.

I have not spoken in our branch yet. My companions were invited to speak the first Sunday we arrived in our branch, but for some reason I was not. Many members didn't even know I was a missionary or that we were in a three-pack! I think it just didn't fit with the timing to have three people speak instead of two. Now I know most everybody though.

I always have either cereal or oatmeal for breakfast. For lunch I usually have a PBJ.  I bet you would have never expected such a consistent diet :D.  We usually get fed 1-3 times a week by the branch. If not I'll usually grab another PBJ or something else from my personal supply. I also have apples, so that means I'm healthy. I enjoyed mixing it up a bit with your package you sent a while ago! Sometimes we'll go eat out at cheap places in Chapin.

We buy our own food. My mission money is transferred to Elder Nissen's debit card. I don't get a card because I am a visa waiter (tear). I am pretty frugal with my groceries! So far I have been able to stay within budget. You're right that I'm not going to be able to send birthday presents anymore. Sorry Josh! The mission funds and my personal funds don't allow for presents and packages. We get $130 each month for expenses of food, supplies, and whatever else. 

We are only able to attend the temple if a convert baptism or less-active member is attending for the first time because of our efforts. It acts as a sort of baptism/reactivation motivation. As if we needed motivation to baptize! President Holm explained "our work is to the living, not the dead".

We did receive training on the stress packet given to each missionary. I received it earlier in the MTC. I'm doing pretty well with stress management so far. I don't sense any problems now or in the future. I'm sure that packet will come in handy someday! I know people who have used it to great advantage.

So I'll run through my week real quick in the time I have left. Missionary work slowed down a little bit because of a 2-day training meeting that occurred for missionary leaders and trainees I was privileged to be a part of. President Holm and other leaders in the mission gave trainings throughout the day. I learned quite a bit! President Holm is particularly charismatic.

The quote from him that is standing out to me right now is "I will leap from my cot, while failures sleep another hour". Pretty strong language, but inspiring nonetheless.

And naturally, General Conference was instructive and uplifting. I particularly enjoyed President Monson's address in the Sunday Morning Session. Really each of the sessions were very good. I look forward to reading them again in the future.

Personally throughout the week, I have been focusing on the goals that I make. How many goals do we set every day, week, month, and year that are left unfulfilled? I realized that I am guilty of making goals and sometimes covenants lightly. I committed to take seriously every goal that I make, and to set daily, weekly, monthly, and yearly goals. I want to construct a self-correcting system of improvement to hopefully mold me into a better missionary and individual.

One experience that we had that I halfway mentioned earlier was with the dog that chased us. Looking back on it, it was hilarious. It was about 8:45 pm, so we had just a bit of the day left to contact people. We decided to follow up on a lead that had been contacted some time in the past that lived near us. The sun had gone done completely, so we had only the lights of whatever streetlights to guide us. We arrived at the street, locked our bikes to a stop sign, and started walking. It is a fairly rural area, and so the streetlights from the road began to fade. We could see the road around our feet and that was about it. 

We walked down about 10 minutes trying to find this house that we had written down. We were talking fairly lightheartedly, but I am unashamed to say I was very unnerved. There was thick forest on either side of us, and we kept hearing movements in the trees (probably deer). I was quoting Psalms 23 from memory in an attempt to calm myself. It was probably just when I got to the part about "Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death" that we turned around a bend and saw the outline of a house. We started towards it but heard a growl.

Missionaries are inherently afraid of large dogs, and this one was a black dog. If you have any common sense, don't run from dogs, because that will make them chase you. So after we saw this big, black dog chasing us, I turned around and just about fell over. Elder Nissen had already started sprinting, and I soon followed suit. I am ashamed to say that the thought crossed my mind that I don't need to beat the dog, only the other missionaries!  I may or may not have pushed Elder Phillips out of my way. I don't really remember and he doesn't either. All I know is that I sprinted like Hell was behind me. Elder Phillips and Nissen may be much faster than me on bike, but if there is enough motivation I now know that I can beat them in a foot race. 

We did escape the dog, although it was right on Elder Phillips' trail. Elder Phillips later told me he had the car keys clenched sticking out of his fist ready to punch it and Elder Nissen had pepper spray. I guess I'm not the best in a dogfight.

I love you all.  Stay sweet!

Called to Serve,

Elder Gale