Monday, January 27, 2014

Week #44

Dear Family,

We had a pretty darn eventful week this week.  Pretty nuts.  Here are some highlights.

Probably the most stressful part was our activity that Elder Rock and I planned.  It was all so perfect, sheer inspiration.  We really wanted to get the ward excited about things, so we put together a short skit based on Alma 46, the story of Captain Moroni making the title of liberty.  Elder Rock was Moroni and I was Amalickiah and it ended up going really well.  We got the other missionaries in our zone to come and help us with it, acting as the other nephites or the lamanites.  We even made some super sick armor out of some silvery, plastic platters, and helmets that put a peacock to shame.  I'll send you some pictures, hopefully today.  We had a lot of fun.

The stressful part about the activity was getting people there.  In Brazil, when you say that an activity starts and 7, every shows up at 8, and if you don't give someone a specific assignment, there's only a 50% chance that they'll come.  We had to learn that the hard way this time, but we learned our lesson and our next activity is going to be even better.

Another good highlight of this week was teaching an English class.  Some of the other missionaries in our zone started an English class in their area, but after transfers the only American missionary there was moved, and the class started to suffer.  So Elder Rock and I are now the English professors and we'll be going there every week.  It turned out to be super fun.  My favorite part is helping Brazilians with words that sound like swear words, like beach or bit.  We're working on putting together some more activities to teach.

Doing street contacts is hard.  I'm not sure if I'll ever get used to them, but we're getting better.

We rescued an abandoned kitten in the middle of a huge avenue yesterday.  We named him Mr. Cat.

After spraying poison last night on our patio, we awoke to find 105 dead cockroaches.  We burned them with alcohol and hand sanitizer so they would stop twitching.  Cockroach genocide.

We are also helping to organize a choir, since Elder Rock has some experience in that.

Marcelo still hasn't baptized because of smoking, but he's getting closer and I'm super excited for him.

Sorry to just throw a bunch of highlights at ya, but I wanted to get it all in there.  I love you all so much and want to thank you for being the best!



Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Week #43

Dear Family,

I hope my letter last week didn't sound like I was super depressed, because I wasn't.  I'm being patient with myself because it can be pretty hard jumping into a new culture without having some misunderstanding, but things are getting a lot better already.

We had some good fun this week, even though it was raining quite a bit.  There was one day that we went and did some service at Willy's house in the rain which was super legit.  It was raining a good bit, but that doesn't stop us.  We didn't want to get our shoes wet and muddy, so we decided to work out in the yard barefoot.  Oh man, it was so refreshing, just like old times, never wearing shoes.  The best.  What made it even better was that we spent half the time pruning and cutting down trees with a facão, which literally means "really big knife".  Afterwards we showered at his house and ate some fubá cake, which is the Brazilian equivalent to corn bread.

Marcelo's baptism was supposed to be this week, but because of his really hectic work schedule it didn't work out, but it's alright, we are going to catch him at home and get it all worked out.  I'll keep you updated.

Sorry, but I don't have too much to update you on about this week.  It was a pretty standard week, finding a few new people to work with and following up with some current investigators.  The language is coming along and I feel really good about my ability to talk with people, considering I only have two months here.  It's super crazy though that I have already been here for two months.  And today is my eleven month mark; I've almost been out a full year.  Madness!  

Elder Rock keeps telling me that he wants me to go to BYU, but I told him that I'm not going to break.  We have a lot of fun, he's probably my favorite companion that I've had so far.  Two Americans trying to figure things out in the heart of Brazil.

I love y'all so much and hope that things are going well.  Thanks for always being good examples!


Thursday, January 16, 2014

Week #42


This has been a solid week.  Tons of good experiences and a lot of growth.  We are growing every day in the way we do our work.  We found out about transfers this week, and thankfully Elder Rock and I get to stay together for at least one more transfer.  He has already been here in Franca for a super long time, so it was somewhat of a surprise that he was able to stay.  But things are really getting figured out, moving forward, and we are going to rock this transfer!

Some of the difficulties that we have had here came to the forefront this week and we are working out how we want to approach them.  I would have to say the hardest thing about Brazil is trying to keep your white shirts white, but that's trivial.  

The challenge that is going to be hardest to face is our relationship with the members, especially the youth.  I think as a result of the culture and the past missionaries here a lot of the youth expect the missionaries to act like their best friends rather than missionaries, which can be somewhat detrimental to the work.  There were a couple experiences this week that kind of brought that out.  The first was with Ytalo, a recent-convert that Elder Rock baptized before I got here.  He's twelve years old and was really into the church just a few weeks ago, but hasn't been going for a while.  We thought it was because his twin brother had been traveling with his godmother, but when we finally found him at home he said that it was for a different reason.  We had to coax the reason out of him, but finally he mustered up the courage to write on a piece of paper why he hadn't been going to church.  It was directed to Elder Rock, this is what it said, more or less:

"This is how it is, Elder Rock.  I don't want to go to church because I hate Elder Vawdrey.  He's really annoying and I don't like that you changed the way you acted when he came.  It's just because he's an American."

That was a bit of a dagger in the heart.  But it didn't help that when he said the closing prayer he decided that it was prudent to also let God know why he wasn't going to church.  "Sorry I'm not going to your house, God, but I really hate Elder Vawdrey."  I didn't really have anything to say, and I probably won't be going back there during my time here in Franca unless he has a change of heart.

We have another situation with another young man who spends a lot of time with us on splits.  Our situation with him isn't nearly as strong, but the principle is the same: misunderstanding of what missionaries are here to do.  This young man sometimes gets frustrated with us, especially me.  I was talking with him yesterday and he said that sometimes I can be annoying, and after he asked me about himself, I told him that I get frustrated with him sometimes as well.  He said that we could talk about things later as friends, instead of as missionaries, but that's the whole issue.  I was called to be a missionary, which entails some professionality and diligence.  If I was just called to be his friend, we wouldn't have a problem, because I really like him and he's a good guy, well-founded in the gospel.  I hope that I don't sound arrogant or like a black hole to anything fun, but I don't think he understands the importance of our calling.

Outside of that the work has been really good.  We had an amazingly spiritual experience yesterday with Marcelo.  He recently began working again, so it has been hard finding him at home, but we finally caught him at home yesterday.  He is preparing to be baptized this week, and we were talking with him about his preparation.  He still had some doubts about whether he was ready or not, so what did we do?  Took it to the Lord!  Right then we all kneeled down, me, Elder Rock, Marcelo, Willy, and Wedsom, and had Marcelo offer the prayer.  He asked God specifically if he was ready for baptism.  Then afterwards we just sat in silence for a bit and let the Spirit work.  It worked.  He feels ready.  The Spirit was the strongest that I have ever felt up to this point, and I almost didn't want to leave.  I would have rather just sat there and soaked it up some more.  We left in really good spirits, because we know with a surety that he is ready.  Isn't that the best?  We did all that we could and afterwards the Spirit just engulfed the room, and in that instant eating up all uncertainty.  Revelation through prayer is real!

Elder Rock and I get along really well, and I'm going to be said when we have to leave each other.  We have similar interests and work well together.  We're learning from each other and also have a lot of fun.  We have an awesome idea for a missionary activity that we are going to have next week, so I'll update you in a couple weeks.

Thanks for all your love, you are the best!



Monday, January 6, 2014

Week #41

Dear Family,

Happy New Year!  You are probably freezing to death up there, but it is nice down here.  We have had a really good week this week.

I did get a little sick earlier this week, and thought maybe that I had got the flu or something because I had a bit of a fever, but Elder Rock gave me a blessing and after a couple of days I was fine.  I haven't contracted any gastric vermin yet, but we'll see what happens, I'm sure I will before my time is up in Brazil.

Probably one of my favorite things about Brazil is just picking fruit off of trees on the side of the road.  In a little while the mangos will be ready, but for now there's plenty of acerola to eat, which tastes just like cherries.  Super good.

New Year's Eve here was nuts!  That was one of the days that I was feeling a little bit sick, but not too sick to eat delicious Brazilian barbecue.  We went over to Sister Renata's that night and she made us chicken heart, which was super good.  Brazilians really do know how to cook their meat.

Because I wasn't feeling very good on New Year's Eve, I didn't really feel like staying up until midnight.  But when midnight hit, there was no way that I would have been able to sleep anyways.  Elder Rock woke me up just a little bit beforehand before the mayhem was going to start.  Let me paint this picture for you, because it's quintessential Brazilian culture.  We walked out of our apartment and there were several groups of men going to town with their fireworks.  I don't know if these were homemade fireworks or not, but I wouldn't be surprised.  The fireworks that they were letting off were the kinds that you would only expect to see set off by professionals, except these only went up about half as high and thus were twice as loud.  I don't think anyone even waited until midnight.  As soon as they hit about 5 minutes before, somebody got a little antsy and started releasing all of their fireworks, and then everyone else just followed suit.  Elder Rock and I just sat there and drank some Guaraná to celebrate.

The work has been a little bit slower since everyone is traveling, but other than that it has been a really good week.  Marcelo is doing really well; we visited him with a member yesterday and he is really making some big changes.  He has been investigating the church for roughly six months, and it's looking like he's finally going to be baptized.  I'm super excited for him, and it's a blessing for me to see him make this big step after working for so long.

I don't know if I already told you, but I'm reading the New Testament and Doctrine & Covenants all the way through.  I never have and really want to, and it' going to be especially helpful because I need to know the New Testament better.  The Portuguese version of the Bible that the Church uses doesn't have footnotes, so I've been doing a lot of cross-referencing.  My focus during personal study is always the Book of Mormon, but I've been trying to get ready a little bit quicker every day so that I can have some extra study time.  I love it, I feel thirsty for more scripture.

That's the beef for this week.  Hope y'all are having a good new year!


Friday, January 3, 2014

Week #40

Dearest Family,

So here's the beef about emailing packages here.  AVOID IT.  Letters are awesome, but packages are bad news.  Everything that I need I can get down here, but if you do want to send something sentimental, like a letter or card, that's perfect. The mailing system down here is kind of nuts.  If you send a package you have to declare what is in it and what it costs, which is shouldn't exceed 40 dollars.  If it does, or they think you are lying, the mailing system will hold you package and you will have to pay a fine to retrieve it.  Elder Rock and I have to go pick up a Christmas package that his mom sent him today, and he has to pay $150 dollars just to retrieve it.  So just avoid it.  If it comes down to me having to pay a fine, I probably won't, and it will just become the new birthday present for someone working in the mailing office. But if you do decide to send a package for some crazy reason, but sunscreen or contact solution in it.

We have had a really good week this week.  It was super great to talk to all of you on Christmas and here your voices.  Willy, the black teenager that introduced himself to you, said that we speak really fast and it was hard for him to understand most of what we were saying, which was kind of cool.  Score one for the American.  But Christmas was definitely different down here.  It´s pretty funny to see how TV shows and malls here try to mimic American Christmas, with snow and Santa in all of his getup, but it's just not the same.  We ate rice and beans just like any other day.  But no big deal, it's going to make Christmas that much better when I get home.  

We had an interesting experience this week with one of our investigators Marcelo.  He has a pretty epic story.  I met him after about one or two weeks of being here, and when I met him he was super down.  Elder Rock had been teaching him and the woman that he was living with, but sadly Marcelo was falling back into drugs, and his conjugate Elaine had just about had it.  Marcelo's job at a pharmacy required him to work some crazy hours, and his manager was actually offering medicine to his employees to help them stay awake.  Because of this, Marcelo fell off the wagon again.

Elaine didn't want to marry him anymore and ending up leaving him.  Immediately after that he lost his job. Because of all this he slipped into some serious depression. One lesson with him when he was particularly down, we read Alma 36 with him, talking about how when Alma relied on Jesus Christ, everything turned around, but Marcelo took it another way.  There is a verse in there that talks about becoming extinct both body and soul, and Marcelo seemed to latch on to that scripture.  From what he was telling us he was contemplating suicide.  We spoke pretty strongly to him that that was not the solution in any way, but when we left he was just as distraught as when we arrived.

A little while later, after several failed attempts to visit with him, we found out that Marcelo had attempted to commit suicide by overdosing.  One of the members in our ward that knows him told us, and that made us worry even more.  We still couldn't get in contact with him, because apparently he had gone of to stay in the countryside to try to clear his head.  

Finally, one day, out of the blue, we heard from him.  We had left a card there before, and he called us up and asked that we come back to talk to him again.  When we went over there, he told us a super legit story, proof that Disney is inspired by God.  Marcelo bought the movie Procurando Nemo (Finding Nemo) and watched it after all of this drama went down.  He was super touched when Dory says to all of the other fish that they need to just keep swimming.  That inspired Marcelo and he was thinking about it an awful lot.  And then all of a sudden one day the Liahona magazine arrives at his door and the idea "Just Keep Swimming" was one of the main topics discussed in the magazine.  Super cool!  He made the decision to call us, and came to church the next day.

Super great story, and it really was a miracle that it all worked out that way.  

Another cool thing about this week was that I gave my first talk in Portuguese to a combined group of our branch and the neighboring ward.  It went super well and I'm really happy about it.  The missionary work is really good here, and the members are very kind.

Well, that's what I've got for you this week.  Thank you for the pictures and videos of Penny, and all of you kind thoughts.