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!

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