A Week When the Elders Almost Went to Jail

It is so hot here! I am literally cooking alive.

Continuing to teach, lots of people got interested at the barbecue last week. Some pastors brought their congregations, mistake on their part. We got invited for the next one beginning of May. President Dalton (editor: smart President) will go with us this time. It will be exciting to watch.

Yeah, it was hot, but we didn’t get any thunderstorms in my area. Actually I have not seen a cloud in the sky ever since Elder Martins arrived, something we lament…..

Elder Martins of Capo Verde is my new companion. He is practically American, he was essentially the last member of his family in Capo Verde, the rest are in Boston now. He will go to the USA after the mission and study law at BYU. He has the exact same personality as Brandon Agre. It is awesome because he speaks english pretty well and has a desire to learn. The only problem is I am not used to speaking English here.  I had the hardest time trying to give a prayer in English the other day and then gave up and switched to Portuguese.

I am glad the alarm to the chapel is not silent, otherwise we would’ve forgotten we had it. Although we got all the way to the second alarm being tripped before we were able to get the security code out of Elder Bradler through the phone.

Please tell Bishop Padilla I found the word “stuff” in the Bible, 1 Samuel 10:22.

Love you all be safe!

Descending the Mountain

First off a question for you:

How much would this coat cost in the USA and how much did I pay for it? It also shows I have dropped 6 suit sizes since arriving in Brazil.
JacketSo Conference was incredible. I really loved Elder Holland’s talk, who didn’t. It was surreal leaving the chapel, which is on top of a giant hill overlooking a crazy busy part of town. We really were descending a mountain. I hope we all realize what a blessing it is to have Priesthood leadership to guide us in our lives.

Transfer news. I am staying (for once). Elder R. Santos will be a District Leader on the southern reaches of the mission, Elder Burnside’s companion is getting sent north. Elder Burnside will stay. I am now senior companion in this area. No pressure….
Antonio stopped meeting with us. Broke my heart. We met Kaigue and Alanna, brother and sister. Alanna is the more interested of the two, was a member of the Adventist church but left when no one could answer her questions. Her questions were “Which church is true and how can I know?” “Why did God stop calling prophets?” “Why do we worship on Saturday if the Apostle Paul said we worship on Sunday because it was the day the Lord was resurrected?” She likes our visits, only reason she didn’t watch conference is it was in Jardim Angela which can be quite a walk.
This is a crazy world we live in, but everything will be certain in the end. All things in Christ end well, and that was my lesson this week.
Love you all!

I Survived Easter Week in Brazil!

It really wasn’t that intense… the worst that happened is no one was home all week. So we had along week of walking in streets deprived of anyone sober and with a family. Lots of people invited us to revisit them. Follow ups yet to bring much results.

We met one guy that was really cool, name is Sebastian. He told us he doesn’t really like religion because none of the pastors are straightforward and only talk about what makes people feel light and happy. Never something that makes people want to change and be better. So during our first lesson with him we watched a talk by Elder Holland. He invited us back for Tuesday just before (someone, him or a friend of his?) goes in for Chemotherapy.

I was worried Antonio died this week! I didn’t see him all week, but ran into him Sunday morning as he was preparing to leave again. It is quite worrying when you are an older gentleman who lives about 500 miles away from any family.

Speaking Portuguese easily now. It comes naturally.

The buses continue to make me sick. I threw up this morning on the bus. I hate them; back to losing weight. I need to somehow acquire a leather punch and start punching  holes in my belt.

How are things at home? I keep hearing hearsay about terrorist attacks in Belgium, one of our investigators told us she heard about a football field in the US that was bombed.  Please tell me!

Love you all hope you are all safe, please write me!

Stinky Feet and Pomegranates

So my foot is not completely healed, but it is well enough (and honestly I am sick of not wearing shoes) that I have put back on my Dr. Martens. We figured out why I scratched my feet, I am allergic to crocs. Didn’t know that was even possible, now I have a nice cream to apply to my feet about 3 times each day. A nice side effect is everything is healing incredibly quickly now, a bad side effect is the main ingredient is sulfur. So I smell sulfur all the time. I finally broke and bought a blanket this morning. We eat oranges and bananas here, cheap stuff that helps our stomach hold everything together. Pomegranate trees are quite common in the streets and while I predict we are still a few months away from when we can harvest, I look forward with much anticipation to eating pomegranates. The Brazilians don’t believe me when I tell them they are quite expensive in the USA.

I was going to write Tim back, but I ran out of time writing to President Dalton. I will write him this week.

Oh my,  it was another rough week. Not as bad as last week, or at least I think so, or I’m just getting used to it. Finally talked with Antonio, so we sat down with him and helped him make a plan. We follow up as often as we can, and he does seem to be making strides. I think it is good he recognizes such things in his life and wants to be baptized, I think it will help him immensely as he prepares for the Temple.

Speaking of temple, we have a lot of new investigators, really cool and accept really well. We just need to marry them before they can be baptized so we don’t have a date for baptism yet.

In regards to the snippets of Brazilian news I get. These feelings towards the President have been brewing ever since the election. Her opponent died in a plane crash that has yet to be investigated, and many other things. There were riots all across Brazil, in fact there was a rather large demonstration in Riveria, which is about 10 streets away from my area. I just try not to mention the Olympics because that is a subject most Brazilians get quite mad about, they hate it.

Easter Week has started. Funny thing is all the churches around here are using pictures of the Church, our pictures. One banner has a picture of a prophet preaching to the people; only thing is I know that picture. It is a painting of Lehi preaching to Jerusalem from the primary kids’ Book of Mormon Stories Book. I pointed this out to Elder Santos, he said that isn’t the biggest thing they take as they also take away some of the ordinances we do, including temple ones, etc.

Palm Sunday was yesterday. Passed a parade of people waving Palm branches and singing on the way to meet Antonio yesterday.

Not much else I can think of right now. Hope all is well with you guys!

Rough Weeks are Harbringers to Great Weeks

First the Questions:

Where do you use computers? What is it like? (Tim)

Well young grasshopper that depends. As this week I have to visit the foot doctor for a follow up visit there is a library where I can use the internet for free. Now you get what you pay for as these machines in the library don’t have a way for me to send pictures. The keyboards have quite a lag on typing, and the machines run on Linux….

But other weeks, normal weeks we visit the LAN House. Normalish computers, but still slower than the computer I set up in the garage.

How did your operation go? What did they actually have to do? How does it feel now?

It stopped hurting after the anesthesia kicked in. But the needle going in was the worst. After that I felt nothing. So the foot doctor cut a chunk out of my toe. It is healing quite quickly. She may possibly be a little disappointed with me this week though, as I casually scratched off a bit of skin on my foot last night…nowhere near the toe. The toe itself doesn’t hurt, unless I kick something with it, which I do all the time. Roads here suck and are broken up all over the place where you least expect it.

What are you eating now? 

Beans and rice still. But in the house I have been making grilled cheese sandwiches.

Did you get a blanket? How do you keep your house warm?

Still no. Umm… there is nothing in the way of climate control in our house, except the fans. We still keep those running at night though because when we close the door to the veranda and the window the humidity in the house can be a little suffocating. We just curl into a ball and eventually fall asleep.

So this week was hard. Not going to lie. Most of our appointments fell this week. Antonio was going to be baptized yesterday, and he was excited, until he saw the water. He suddenly got very nervous and booked it out of the building quite rapidly. We’re still trying to follow up with him to find out what happened.

Elder R. Santos and I are getting along great. We are on great friendly terms, He shared the story of his conversion, which is quite cool. And we talked about a lot of other things this week, mainly practicing my grammar which is steadily improving. My vocabulary is great, but the grammar was awful. The big push this week is to get me to speak simply in words normal people understand. Elder R. Santos also is trying to get me to use a little bit of a rougher tone so I don’t sound “gay” when I speak.

Still hate wearing crocs.

We celebrated the birthday of Sister Thomas last P-Day. Yes the same set of Sisters from Parque Luiza followed me here. Never mind the fact that they were here 5 weeks before me, they followed me here. It has given me some perspective though, as they are testament to my improving Portuguese.

Elder Burnside established a rule yesterday that we only speak English in the house every other day. Speaking English is a little weird now.

Found a family really receptive to our message this week, just 4 doors down from Antonio. It is exciting for next week.

I found out last night that Capão Redonão (I really have given up on trying to spell it right) is notoriously the most dangerous barrio in the region. That explains the police presence now…. How did I find out? I am starting to understand a little the music that blasts out of peoples’ cars. Also that is another thing I find truly as annoying as my crocs, speakers that fill the backseat and trunk area of a car. I am not exaggerating that the asphalt shakes at the noise.

Ponderizing Acts 5:40-42 this week with Elder R. Santos this week. I am also making Peter the apostle a subject of my study this week.

Hope all is well with everyone there.  Love you all

This Week in Figuiera Grande

EldersDone&SantosSo I survived surgery but am confined to Crocs for the foreseeable future. I have not played soccer any P-Day because none of my companions like soccer, and soccer quads aren’t the best of places. Here the local soccer quad, which I pass every day, reeks of marijuana. Actually public marijuana usage and such is common, unfortunately, but before I rant, I press forward. Did not send my ballot because I only now have a post office nearby, but I will vote for the General.

No big changes on the daily happening teaching. Got one baptism this week, Dildazil, although everyone calls him Bobo (translated it means “Stupid”). I was at first surprised when Elder Santos called him such, but I guess it is normal? I let Elder Santos do the talking on that one.
I have a cool experience about Priesthood blessings to send next week.
Teaching Elder R. Santos English is fun. I got to unload a lot of my Portuguese learning books on him. They don’t help me anymore, but they can sure help him. The push during language study has been to make me sound less like a book when I talk. I think it is working, although I’m also picking up a bit of words from up north, where Elder Santos is from, which is like a Texan dilalect.
Passed 3 months in the mission this past week. Woo do the days fly.
I really wish I had more to say this week, but not really much has happened except my croc since I wrote last week.
Editor’s Note: Back and forth between Father and Son
Today we left the house late. We had to do some serious cleaning. And we had to install our new stove. The kitchen is now finally dry, the refrigerator started leaking this week and the sink got backed up the stench was awful. The refrigerator stopped leaking and we think we’ve fixed the kitchen sink. We’re still using the veranda sink though, just to be safe.
Jucatiba is the farthest area away. It is the largest area; it has a branch of about 10 members. It is out in the farmland.
QUESTION: Do you have to wear a jacket?
We are required to wear jackets to Sunday meetings, meetings with Mission President, and other church leaders. Mission rules. Also it is beginning to get cold here. It is almost like October in Virginia. I might break down and buy a blanket next P-Day. No one knows farenheit here. So I am forced to learn the metric system. Now it is about 15 C, Apparently it gets into the 40s  (4 degrees C) by July.
Just so you know though there is nothing in the way of tourism attractions anywhere here. Only the racetrack but that is far and outside my current zone.
Oh we have a dog! Sort of. Moroni lives at the church building and feeds off of leftovers of mutual activities and barbecue from the barbecue place across the road. He eats more barbecue than me. Bishop allows him to stay, because he always comes back no matter how often he gets chased off, and he chases other strays away. He not only smells like Winston, but acts like him too. He can walk around the church building when people are there, but he is not allowed on the benches. But he does so anyways when no one is looking. He growls a little when you push him off, but otherwise he is quite docile. Loves belly rubs.
About Cousin Eph. Congrats!!!!! My Portuguese is pretty good. My accent is disappearing, it is less than some americans with a year under their belt. My only problem is grammar. But we have an hour each day to work on that.

It was a Dark and Stormy Night…

It really was when the event occurred that is the highlight of this week’s letter. But more on that later.

If ever there was a missionary that could be more opposite than Elder Neves he has yet to be met, but Elder R. Santos is certainly opposite. He comes from the northern part of Brazil, his state is the equivalent of Texas and does not speak even a little English. He has six months in the mission and has been in this area for 3 transfers now. We get along fabulously! We have a house here and it is quite big. At one time it housed 7 elders, almost barrack-like, now there are only 4 of us. Good space for us.

Had a baptism, will send pictures. The older brother, a recent convert did the ordinance. I forgot my [SD]card at the house as I am far from the house now. I have to get my foot fixed finally.

Today I found that my companion and I are among the six companionships featured in the President’s weekly email for hitting the 3 standards of gold as they are called. These include lessons taught, progressing investigators, and at least one baptism every week. Excellent. Let’s do better next week.

For whatever reason I cannot seem to stop losing weight. It is getting annoying trying to keep my pants up as my belt is a little large now. I think I found the problem, I keep drinking the tap water. I realize this is maybe the cause, but darn it, I will not be limited. I will make my body used to this water!

I am now in 3 Nephi in the Portuguese copy of the Book of Mormon. I will finish it in the upcoming month!

Now onto the cool experience this week. It was Thursday, it was a rainy, stormy, Thursday. Tired and exhausted we made our way to our next appointment. Antonio was a street contact we made the day before. As house numbers here are garbage (you could have 456 next to 23 followed by 79, no joke) we were having some difficultly locating his house. Then we found it. We called. As he approached the gate he told us he was a bit busy and his house was a mess, so he was hesitant to admit us. But with some persistence he let us through the gate. Upon arriving at the house we saw what he was busy about. His door was broken into many pieces and the inside of his two room house was slightly flooded. As it was a concrete floor little problem. But there was also clothes thrown everywhere as well as broken dishes. So what happened? He had arrived home from work 2 hours before and found that someone had broken into his home and searched it for money, which he doesn’t have. As one could see all the food in his house is bean and rice, the cheapest food in Brazil. He was in the process of rebuilding his door, partially with the ruins of the old door and pieces of furniture he was tearing off from his chairs and the like. After about 2 hours of work the door was complete and the wind and rain was shut out of his house. Under the light of the single light bulb that lights his house, we shared with him the message of the Restoration of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. He is on date for baptism this week and you could see the light in his eyes as we visit this old maintenance worker far from any family.

What else could one say that would close a letter better than that? I love you all, and miss you all, but I know that this work here misses everyone involved. Investigators, me, and you my family.

An Elder without a Home

No one will get the reference I am making in this subject line, because nobody remembers random facts about literature from AP American History.

Okay so just as the subject line says I am yet again being transferred for my third area in less than two months in the field. I have not yet travelled to my new area, that is tomorrow, but I know my new area is Figueira Grande in the Guarapiranga zone. Elder Neves and I said good-bye today he flies home tomorrow. No baptism again this week. Got tough on us, but we found some really cool people who we could teach, and I now pass them on to Elder Malca who will take over our area. Roberto and his wife Ivone were a reference from a member, and they are really cool. They accepted the Book of Mormon quite readily. They don’t have a specific religion that they follow but they believe in a lot of things that normal investigators don’t understand yet. Roberto is pretty deep into Freemasonry, so it was odd talking with him.
All better and my appetite is back. Although my appetite is still not acceptable to my companion who tells everyone that I do not eat enough. I eat at least 2 helpings! Then I am full. Sigh. Oh well at least I’m not becoming fat. Walking a lot helps with that. Walking everywhere actually helps with that.
I have started my personal record of my mission money, now that the money system here is easy to remember for me as to the value of things. I forgot to say last week the most important thing you can buy with R$1, Salgados. Salgados are like meat and cheese pasties, and one coxinha (spelling?) usually murders my hunger sufficiently. They are also a great measure of the economic status of an area. The average price around São Paulo, or at least the areas I’ve worked in is R$1, but in Parque Luiza they were R$0.50 and in Santo Amaro, by the office they go for R$3. Excellent gauge of economic conditions. I have resolved to not buy any over R$1 because I can walk a few blocks in any direction and get into an area for R$1, it is actually one of the ways I help mentally map out areas.
I was essentially senior companion this past week because my companion was out a lot for preparing to leave, interviews, temple, etc. So I had a member with me during the day and I had to plan out our entire day and navigate the area. It was hard, because for the past few weeks when I asked how we did something the usual response was, “you don’t need to worry about that, I’ll take care of it”. Well I learn exceptionally well on the fly. It was kind of like when they told me at Sears that I would be manning the entire department alone on my second day in tools.
Always take an umbrella has been my lesson this week. It is the best way to make certain that it will not rain that day. Reading Portuguese easily now without problems, in the middle of Helaman right now in the Book of Mormon, and I can carry a conversation easily in Portuguese, so long as they don’t use slang. The problem is everyone uses slang.
The coolest thing I encountered is Book of Mormon names are common here in Brazil among non-members. For example, Elder Oliveira is a convert to the church, he joined the church when he was 18 and his parents did not know the church. His first name is Pahoran. When he read the Book of Mormon he asked his father where they got his name, they told him it was an indian name. Super cool.
Hope all is well at home. Love you all!

Twice the Pride, Double the Fall

Yes I made the Subject of this week’s email a quote from a Sith Lord (Count Dooku to be exact, although he wasn’t all that bad when you take everything into consideration, but I digress)

So we had multi-zone training this week. We were given some information about the Zika Virus. It is big in Recife Brazil, which is about the distance from Manassas to the middle of Nebraska, from us. It also is especially dangerous to pregnant women. It is carried by mosquitoes, and there are actually hardly any mosquitoes here in the city because the military wages an active campaign against them (it is quite hilarious, almost like the Great Emu War the British Empire fought in Austrailia). All this in mind I proudly claimed that I was “immune to all diseases”.
Well Brazil just had to prove me wrong.
The day afterwards I became super sick. As did essentially half the mission. We are not quite sure what it was, although my bets are down on the chili. Elder Neves, vegetarian that he is, did not eat the chili, so he didn’t get sick. So we did divisions with members.  A member stayed in the house with me Friday and Saturday  while I tried to sleep. Another made visits with Elder Neves.
It was really hard. I hated being in bed, unable to eat or drink anything and keep it in my body. Saturday evening my body finally allowed me to eat one orange and one carrot. I still haven’t returned to full eating capacity yet though. No longer sick, but I do believe my stomach has shrunk. You would have never believed that eating enough at meals would be a problem with me but Elder Neves says I don’t eat a lot. Even though I leave every meal full.
While I was lying in bed I was wondering why I got sick. I thought that if I had enough faith I would not get sick. I had received a blessing, I was a missionary of the Lord, I was working my best and being obedient. Why did this happen. I got super discouraged and the temptation to want to return home was so strong.
Saturday afternoon, when I could sleep no more, I was studying about faith in the book Drawing on the Powers of Heaven by Grant Von Harrison. President Dalton gave us all this book. I was reading a chapter about how our faith will be tested and tried before miracles occur. And it gave me a little more insight on my predicament. I am a soldier of the Lord, so of course the adversary will use every weapon to try and stop me, yes even bad chili. But the purposes of our trials are to prove that we are strong in our committments, to purge us of all uncleaniliness (Humour for Dad: I certainly am now), and to strengthen our faith.
I am glad for this opportunity to learn. Unfortunately a lot of other missionaries are still sick, but I know they will get better.
Got to confirm Caio this week. Here are pictures from his Baptism. His sister is standing next to him.
We had no baptisms yesterday due to some adversity, but I will work harder to overcome them.
I love you guys and I hope everything is well with you guys.
Tim sent me an email today subject line “Snow” with just a picture of the backyard. It was great. I sent him replies. He has yet to respond. Audrey should write me more emails as I love receiving them and try to write back. I’ve been trying to send this letter for her for forever, but it is really hard when we don’t have a post office nearby. Whenever I have a meeting in Santo Amaro we either have an appointment right after, or in the case of this week, it was closed…

Be well!

QUESTION: why do you wear your name tag on the right lapel? It seems as though it should be on your left lapel. Is that a mission thing? Lots of missions make a big deal of it being  on the left lapel.

ANSWER: In the CTM they told us to wear it on the Right lapel so that when we shake hands our name tag is forward. But I get 50/50 comments on it. So I switch each time.

QUESTION: How was Carnival?
ANSWER: Carnival was quiet here too. Although that might have something to do with a police presence that would make the locusts of egypt jealous. It was Beautiful.
QUESTION: What does the money look like?
ANSWER: Here are some coins we use each day. Elder Neves thinks Americans are crazy for collecting coins.SAM_0173
SAM_0176 SAM_0174 SAM_0172

What’s a Zika Virus?

ZikaVirusZika virus? What is that? This is the first time I’m hearing about it. Well not true, it is graffitied on some walls, but I thought  it was a name, or a gang. So no I have not heard anything about the Zika virus.

Meat. Ha! The meat in the restaurants in the states is SOOOOO expensive. It’s rice and beans every day here. I’ve taken to preparing pasta for myself, but it is very simple no tomato sauce, just a light olive oil dressing. When we do get meat, it is either chicken, or if they really want to treat us, sausage. This area is still poor, and much bigger than the last area. But instead of a ton of bars they have an even bigger number of beauty salons.

The area is safer because there is a much bigger police presence here. And the police do not mess around here. Elder Neves doesn’t like or trust the police. The civil police are not as heavily armed, but it is the military police that are the big boys, and there are tons of them. The other day I saw a group of the military police patrolling the train station just carrying their assault rifles out and around. Last night, I saw something that would never happen in the states. We were waiting at a bus stop and two guys walked past us. When they got about 15 feet away a military police vehicle (they all drive at least SUVs here) pulled up alongside them and a police man pointed his gun at them from inside the car and told them to get up against the wall. All four police in the vehicle exited and proceeded to search them, two kept a watch out with assault rifles.

Speaking of the States, thank you for the update. I’ve taken to singing all three verses of the Star Spangled Banner each morning to remind me that I am an American. Elder Neves and the other Brazilians don’t understand patriotism.

Had a baptism this week! Caio! I will send pictures next week; my adaptor for some reason is not working. It was great though, and he’s helping us teach others now and prepare them for baptism. He will be a good missionary.

Funny you should mention me speaking with natives. My first week here I met a Brazilian who spoke really good English. He explained to me that he lived in Virginia when he was younger and started talking about his genealogy. He claims descendance from the Linton Family and could describe the cemetery to me very well. He was happy when I told him about my Eagle project. It was so cool!

My Portuguese is really good. My accent is still very strong though. Most people I can understand unless they are from the South, they speak Portuguese with a German accent.

All is well. We’re looking at a successful week ahead and we just keep going. Jacob is doing well in the CTM and is very happy.

Love you all do not worry and be happy!