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Monday, March 25, 2013

Update from San Nicolás

This past week has really blessed our lives as we´ve continued serving the church down here in Argentina. Elder Brasher and I, along with the constant help from other missionaries in the zone, have had some solid success throughout these past few weeks. As a zone, we have close to 15 people with baptismal dates as well as a handful of progressing investigators!

Wahoo! We have done so well that our mission president approved another special pday! So we decided to watch Madagascar 2 today, which was the first movie experience I´ve had in the last 20 months! Crazy.... Even though it was a silly, animated movie, I really enjoyed watching it and had some good laughs. :) We all put some money together and made eight pizzas, as well! It was a great pday.

Long story short, everyone is extremely satisfied and tired. We have worked incredibly hard these past few weeks, and it felt nice to kick back and relax a little bit today. Whenever the entire zone gathers together, we always have a fun time and get to know each other better.

Elder Brasher and I had close to 30 lessons this past week! We both come back exhausted every night, but we enjoy the work! WE. WALK. A. TON. I will probably start wearing my little pedometer again, just to measure the ridiculously long distance! I think we travel roughly eight miles a day. Most missionaries go through three or four pairs of shoes in my mission. I met a missionary the other day who had gone through five pairs!! I am on my third and fourth right now, after walking on rocky, dirt roads for the past year and a half! haha.

We work hard, help out with the zone, and have our normal missionary responsibilities. Happy and tired, I will keep serving for these last couple of months! I can´t believe that at this time last year I had just entered the mission offices as historian. So I haven´t lived in Paraná (my second area) for more than a year! Time sure flies.

Alright, I really appreciate the letters and support, like always! Guess what? The national mission department changed the rules, and missionaries can now email anybody. Can you believe that? Anybody!!! Instead of just family, you can email any friends, relatives, neighbors, and anyone else you might know. I haven´t decided what to do yet, since I don´t want to just start emailing everyone. I still kinda like the handwritten letters and want to stay focused on my mission :). So for now, I think we will just stay with the written letters. I will be home in a few mere months anyways!

Thanks again for everything!

Elder Jones!

Monday, March 18, 2013

                                                     At a meat slaughter house. This is half a cow!
                                                          Downtown San Nicolas

                                                       From the last zone conference.
                                                    Zone bowling activity on recent Pday!

Barrio Oeste

Here is some quick information about my current area, Barrio Oeste (West Ward), as well as some other random facts.

Barrio Oeste. Alright, so this area has really made my mission great for a variety of reasons. First off, IT IS HUGE! Encompassing roughly 50 blocks, it seems to never end. Elder Brahser and I have walked probably about half of the streets these past few weeks. What more, I´ve worked here for more than two months, and I still don´t know all of the neighborhoods within our area.

About half of the streets are covered with gravel and dirt, and the higher traffic roads are nicer, usually made of cement or asphalt. Compared to the rest of the little city called San Nicolás, our assigned working area covers more of the poorer houses. We have some really humble villages and neighborhoods, and the people really care for one another. We find a lot of investigators, but we struggle to get them to church since most of them don´t have cars and would have to walk about a mile. 

Luckily, we have sufficient support and help from members. That´s always a plus! Roughly 120 people attend each Sunday, which is one of the highest statistics in the whole mission. Not only do these active, faithful families help us with lessons and investigators, but they also provide us with adequate lunches and basically just tasty food.

My companion and I walk all over the place, and every once in a while we take a bus to travel to the outskirts of town. Right now, we have about eight people scheduled for baptism, and we just keep plugging along and working hard. Long story short, life is good!

This is kinda off topic, but I´ve started to work out seriously again too! Elder Brasher and I go running about three times a week and try to dedicate small amounts of time to weights and other exercises. I´m slowly becoming a runner again. haha. I kinda let myself go during the past few months, but my pants still fit, which is always a plus. :)

Thank you so much for everything you guys do for me. I have learned so much during my missionary service, and your support helps me along the way. I love this area right now as well as the investigators that we teach each day. I will be sure to keep you all updated.

Have a good week.

Your buddy,

Elder Jones

Monday, March 11, 2013

Learning Spanish

I have had a great time these past few days, and we have been working incredibly hard. We organized some cool zone activities, so today the entire zone went bowling here in downtown San Nicolás :). Every companionship has had some solid success these past few weeks, and we are working towards our goals as a zone. 

Next week, I will try to write more about all of our companionships and the 14 missionaries here in San Nicolás. Today, after thinking it over a bit, I´ve decided to write about learning a new language, which is a crazy aspect of the mission that most people take for granted before heading out to the field. So here is a brief but detailed lowdown.

Learning a new Language. First and foremost, learning a second language is hard. You love it some days, and others you can´t stand it. In some textbooks and college study aids, it says that learning a new language 100% fluently takes roughly seven years. SEVEN YEARS! Don´t worry, though, because a missionary or any other person can become conversant within just a couple of months.

In the MTC you learn the basics: verb conjugating, sentence structure, simple pronunciation, and other small details relative to the culture and the county in which you plan to serve. These studies and practices are the key to success in the mission field. However, even the best missionaries from the MTC really struggle to carry a conversation when they come to the country. It´s all good, though. That´s why we have companions :).

The first goal is sharing the gospel. Each missionary memorizes phrases, vocabulary, and tons of gospel-related sentences throughout the first weeks and even months of the mission.

Then you keep learning more with time. I have been here for about 18 months, and I still learn new words and phrases on a daily basis.

It´s a constant process, but you do have a couple hours each day to study the gospel and language. Despite the difficult process, every missionary learns the language. We aren´t perfect, but with the Spirit we teach people around the world every day. Whether the lesson gets taught in simple, memorized phrases or by a fluent, native speaker, the doctrine contains the same message--and will never change.

Some languages are harder than others. Luckily, I got Spanish :). I do obviously like English as well haha.

Anyways, I hope you all are doing well. I really appreciate your help, prayers, and cards. I will see you all soon.

Thanks again,

Elder Jones :)

Monday, March 4, 2013

Craziest Week of the Mission!

Alright! I have had quite the experience over the last couple of days! First off, I always want to thank people for the letters and other mail. I want to especially thank Shantel Sanders, Kailey Sherman, Kimber (Kimbz) Haner, and Malia Johnson for your dedicated writing skills. You are among the few faithful ones who have written me for my whole mission. Yeah, can you believe it?!!!! That´s a solid 19 months of letters. Wow :). I have tried to write back regularly over the months and hope everything has made it back to you all.

When I come home, it will be great to see you! For those of you going on missions, I will write you during your service over the next year and a half, which will be kinda cool! We will just swap places, and I´ll understand your comments well since your missions should be somewhat similar to mine. Anyone who feels the desire and gets the answer to serve should most definitely go, but I support people who feel differently. The mission teaches you many life experiences, but it challenges you and pushes you to limits, as well. They aren´t easy!!! Yes, they are rewarding, like everyone says afterwards :). At the same time, it is more than just doing home teaching visits. It is solid work for the Lord. 

Just learn about missions and make sure you understand what you´re getting into, especially since it´s a year and a half long. Then do what´s best for you. That´s my summarized advice :).

Anyways, I have a small time slot today to write about my past week. Due to little time, I plan to write a brief summary of each day from the past week! It. has. been. super. busy.

So, here we go!

  • Elder Lemon taught his last lessons with me, and we said goodbye to many members, investigators, and converts
  • He packed his bags
  • I worked temporarily with another Elder in our zone, all the way down here in San Nicolás!
  • We prepared a ton of special reports for the offices, mostly dealing with statistics and numbers from our zone
  • We just worked as if it were a normal work day
  • Special Transfer Pday
  • I had the opportunity to organize transfers between a bunch of other zone leaders
  • Two missionaries finished the mission in my zone, three got transferred to other cities, and three new ones came to join our forces here in San Nicolás!
  • We worked the night like a normal missionary day.
  • Traveling Chaos! That´s just how I´m gonna describe it. I´m sure you can imagine. We have about 220 missionaries in our mission, and about 100 were all traveling throughout our 12 zones. Crazy stuff. This includes new missionaries arriving to the mission home, and all that fun stuff I described back while in the offices!
  • Elder Brasher, my new awesome companion, made it here to San Nicolás
  • Thousands of phone calls. . . :)
  • Worked the night
  • Finally a normal work day with my companion :)
  • Mission Council
  • It took all day, what with all the traveling, meeting, and planning with all the other zone leaders
  • Zone Council, where we relay all of the mission council information to our personal companionships here in San Nicolás
  • Great, busy day
  • Normal work day in the morning
So yeah, I´m completely exhausted and tired. We have done great work though, and our zone is doing well.

We have a zone-wide conference tomorrow. So yep, more planning and traveling!! haha. It should be good, though. I plan to take a nice long nap and act like a hibernating bear this afternoon.

I´ll talk to you guys next week.

Elder Jones