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Hola! (12/12/13)

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Hola everyone!

I honestly can’t believe it’s Thursday again, time is passing so fast here it’s crazy. The first three days or so seemed to crawl by but now it’s just flying!
I think I told you this last week, but we have some new Haitian elders here. They are so, so cool. They speak French, so I feel back at square one with the language barrier. At least some of them can speak a little English.

I really enjoy my new piano calling. Right as I started playing for the CCM, the pedal got fixed! Coincidence? I think not.

My companion is all better, and so far I’ve stayed perfectly healthy (knock on wood).

We teach an elderly couple every Monday night for family night, and this Monday they said they could really tell that our Spanish had improved. It was nice to hear. It’s hard for me to tell how much I’ve gotten better.

This past week we’ve had a couple of pretty exciting adventures. We got to go to the store! This included walking a mile or so through the streets. The traffic here is crazy, people honk like non-stop. Motorcycles and scooters zip in between cars and along the shoulder. I would not want to drive here. Too scary. The store was like a big, Dominican Walmart. I got a pretty sweet tie, some bleach, a notebook and an apple (it was super mushy and gross, I miss our apple trees).

We also went to the University and practiced contacting, super scary but after the first two it wasn’t so bad. I can only imagine what we sound like to the people we’re trying to teach. You just have to hope they don’t ask you anything really hard, because they talk really really fast. We stopped two men walking down the street, only to find out they were professors at the University, yikes. They asked a lot of questions. Most of which we didn’t really understand. He has a Book of Mormon and has read it. Has been to Jerusalem and he said something about the Priesthood. I’m not sure, hopefully our message made a good impression on him. We did end up talking to a guy who was actually really receptive. We talked for quite a while. He is studying English, and Mormonism, imagine that! We gave him a Book of Mormon, bore testimony about the Restoration, asked him to read it and pray. He said he will and that he really admires our church because of the fact that we try to share our message with other people. It’s not our message though, it’s God’s.

Reading Halley’s emails I’m so jealous at the number of apostles she gets to listen to. But we’re not too bad off here; so far we’ve had two members from the seventy visit. The last one, Brother Anderson was really really good. A lot of talk about change, developing both skills and attributes.

Every day we have an hour of physical activity, very much needed if you ask me. Whenever I’m frustrated with this or that, I always know that Ultimate Frisbee will make it all better. Some play basketball or volleyball or foosball, but when I can, it’s Frisbee for me. We have a teacher here, Hermano Nunez that has a Frisbee and we play almost every day. The only grass we have is right in front of the temple though, which doesn’t seem quite right, so we play in a parking lot. It works okay; just don’t dive for the Frisbee or you get pretty scraped up. Elder Mortenson found that out the hard way. Ha-ha, he’s so crazy.

My mind is telling my it’s Christmas time but my heart is telling me something else. Christmas isn’t supposed to be hot and sunny. I do my best to sing and play Christmas songs as much as I can to try to bring the Christmas spirit. Elder Mortenson’s novia sent him a cute little Christmas tree; I think I was more excited than him to see that thing!

All and all it’s been a good week, threeish more to go!

Love you all!

Elder Jacobo

P.S. I havn’t gotten any letters yet. One of the teachers said that it usually takes up to two weeks if all goes well. We’ll see!


Mis Hermanos Dominicanos (12/5/13)

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Our Sunday Best
Our Sunday Best

Hola everyone! Again, I only have a short time so it’s going to have to be fast. I don’t even get to read my emails until the 45 minutes they give me on P-Day!

It’s been a week of change here at the CCM, two groups of missionaries< the North Americans that got here before us and the Spanish speakers that came the same day we did, left on Tuesday. It’s so cool and exciting to see them go out. Just a few more weeks for me! I’m going to miss them though. I only knew them for a few days but they became really good friends, especially the Spanish speakers, my hermanos dominicanos (although I am neither Dominican nor serving in the Dominican Republic, but that’s what they called me!) They had some really strong testimonies, there was one Elder from Puerto Rico who gave me the names of his family, he said they aren’t members but I need to find them and teach them. I think that would just be the coolest thing.

Elder Abankie and I have now got a new room on the fourth floor, the nice floor. It has two desks and a paper towel dispenser, we’re living in paradise. The transition also means that I’m the new piano player. Man I wish I would have learned some more hymns at home!

We just got two new groups of missionaries, one from Haiti who speak french and the other from North America. I’ve only met a few, but it’s nice. at least we now have more than 20 elders and sisters, it’s been kind of lonely these past couple of days.

So it turns out I did have a traditional thanksgiving: turkey, stuffing, the whole deal. It was really nice of the cooks. They even put out fancy tablecloths and napkins. It was a nice touch of home but at the same time it made me all the more homesick. You’ll never believe what happened that night though, we were watching a Thanksgiving devotional from Provo, and I saw Halley!!! Out of the thousands of missionaries there, on the first sweep of the camera! I consider it one of the tender mercies of the Lord, he knew how I was feeling, and that if I just saw my sister, everything would be alright.

I’ve really come to love this MTC and the people in it. the food also. For breakfast its usually a cmbination of eggs, bacon, toast, pancakes, french toast, and cereal. luch always has rice and some kindof meat and soup, and then dinner varies from tacos to mystery soup. I think they’re trying to fatten us up, I forget what it’s like to feel hungry.

My companion is actually really sick at the moment, sore throat, headache, fever. he threw up earlier today. As a result, we’ve both been in our room for the good part of yesterday and all of today. Him sleeping, and me studying. I actually have enjoyed it, I’ve gotten so much done and so much read…I just hope I don’t get sick.

The Spanish is coming along muy rapido, I usually memorize 15-30 words a day along with material from class. A lot of the work here is personal though. You can either get a lot out of your study and diligence, or you can leave the CCM knowing how to introduce yourself and bear a testimony. I’m here to work, it’s just frustrating when I see others not trying very hard.

One treat here at the CCM is the devotionals we get to watch. We recently saw one from President Bednar, it was soo good. did you know he’s funny?

All in all, the things I’ve heard, the things I’ve been taught, and the things I’ve studied continue to make me want to do my best and leave nothing behind. I really like John 6:28-29; God has promised us many many amazing things, but the only way those will come to pass is if we believe Him. And a big part of believing Him is fulfilling our part of the bargain.

Love you all, and I hope all is going well with you!

-Elder Jacob

Our Study Spot
Our Study Spot
The Spanish speakers
The Spanish speakers

PS you know how I said to send letters? Well the president’s wife said that the mail here is really infrequent and random. So I havent gotten any, and I only know of one other Elder that has. Puerto Rico’s mail service will be much better I’m sure.

A Dominican Thanksgiving (11/28/13)

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Hey everyone!
It was so nice to get on the computer today and see all of the emails, I’ve missed you guys! It’s crazy to think that I’ve only been here for a week. my first day alone felt like it contained enough to fill a weeks worth. They’re keeping us busy but I wouldn’t want it any other way.

The flights all went well. I flew to Chicago and Miami by myself but was pleasantly surprised to see a group of missionaries sitting at the Miami airport. Its so cool that we came from all over the country to meet up for the last flight. There are about 20 new missionaries along with myself, most serving in the DR, but three others and one sister serving with my in Puerto Rico.

We were all so grateful to have two Spanish speaking missionaries with us in the group when we got to the DR. Going through customs and finding our ride would have been quite a bit more difficult without them. There was no man holding a cardboard sign with “Elder Jacob” like I expected. With our ride to the MTC we were greeted with some wonderful Dominican rap music, a good welcome for servants of the Lord if you ask me.

It was really weird to look out the window at a totally new country. There were more palm trees than I could count, not nearly as many traffic signs as in the US, and a lot of garbage along the side of the streets. I don’t know how true this is but I heard from another elder that they don’t have garbage systems of sewer systems, so in some places of the DR they both end up on the street.
Our living conditions are better than that thankfully. In fact, the MTC is right next to the Temple, enclosed by the same wall and gate. It really is beautiful here. I’m going to have to get used to walking outside and having it be warmer than it was inside, very different.

My district of 9 elders (one companionship of 3) is really great. seriously, I couldn’t imagine it any other way. It’s only been 7 days but I feel like I’ve known these guys for way longer. I’m really happy with my companion too, Elder Abankie. (Back row in the middle)

devon missionaries

He’s from Suriname, a country I had to look up on a map after he told me (North of Brazil). He speaks dutch and English and is learning Spanish along with the rest of us to go serve in the Belguim Netherlands. He’s the only one going to that mission. He was supposed to go to Provo but he couldn’t get a US Visa, so he’s stuck with us. He’s really great though, he served a mini mission back in Suriname so he has some experience. He’s also a really good singer, whenever we’re in the stairwell or the bathroom he just belts it out. He’s going to be the next Alex Boye, I just know it.

We have classes pretty much all day. I can tell you my four years of Spanish really payed off. I feel like I’m way ahead of most of my district,a lot of them have little or no Spanish background. I’ve found that the best way for me to learn is to talk with the Spanish speakers here at the MTC. My understanding and ability to respond has improved so much. Plus I’ve made a ton of new friends outside my district. Whenever they see my they’re like “Elder Jacobbbb! como esta?!”

devon and MTC pres.

I really like the mission president and his wife. They really seem to care about us missionaries which is really nice when you’re away from the familiarity of home. The teachers area also really good. They only speak in Spanish (for the most part) so you learn pretty fast here.

The food is really good. I can’t complain. It’s all traditional Dominican food, along with some frosted flakes and fruit loops. A lot of rice and beans and meat. And really really good fruit and juice. Tonight we’re going to have Thanksgiving dinner. I’m excited, to say the least. It’s going to be really odd not having it at home for the first time.

Last night, after a rough lesson with a fake investigator, I was feeling kind of down. It is so frustrating to not be able to say what I want to say, and I really miss home. Then one of the Elders told me that my name tag was pushed up on my pocket, which everyone says here means that someone is thinking of you. So thank you guys. I miss you, but I know that I’m doing what the Lord needs me to do.

con mucho amor,

Elder Jacob

PS. Sorry I couldn’t respond to everyone! I only get 45 minutes on the computer. If you write me letters, I can write you back whenever during the week though! I think they mail out on Fridays. Until next Thursday!