Sunday, December 29, 2013

First Christmas in Brazil

Christmas Eve dinner party

The U.S.missionaries
Christmas party antics

Christmas churrasco

Dinner table at the churrasco

New car that Elder & Sister Shirley just purchased

Sister Shirley with Sister Gurrieri from Argentina, and Sister Almeida from Bahia, Brasil. 

December 26, 2013

We really enjoyed the Zone Mission Christmas Conference.  We boarded the bus to Porto Alegre with 8 other young missionaries.  It is a 3 hour trip.  We listened to talks by President and Sister Castro, saw videos, ate good, participated in skits.  Even Elder Shirley and I were a part of the skits.  It was kind of an ad-lib thing....a challenge for me.  But we did it and it was fun!  We got back after 10 pm that night.

We have had some good visits in the homes of less-active members.  One young couple had an adorable 11 month old baby girl.  They won our hearts!  They had very fond memories of the Elder who baptized them with pics and all.  This sister is a seamstress and had made 20 ties for Elder Cutler!  They hope to get back to church as they really want to be sealed as a family in the temple.  We surely hope that will happen.  We would love to go with them.  As usual, transportation is a problem and they live quite a distance from the church.  A challenge!

We have had more good visits on the street.  We had one day when we had several people stop us and ask for cards or Book of Mormons.  It is amazing to me.

Also, we have been preparing to start teaching English classes next week.  Several people we have met have indicated an interest in learning English.  We hope it will also spark an interest in the gospel.  We have quite a variety of people we have invited to join us.  Elder Shirley has tried to be selective in his invitations.    We will see if they will all show up.

It was a great Christmas Eve.  The Elders and Sisters joined us at our place for food, scripture, songs, and a gift exchange.  We had lots of good food.  Everyone brought something.  There were only two missionaries plus us from the US:  Elder Staples from South Jordan, UT and Sister Biddulph from Idaho Falls, ID.  The rest are Brazilian or Argentinean.  We continue to be so impressed by all of these young missionaries.  They are so dedicated and capable.  Everyone bore their testimony....a challenge for me.  But I managed to do it.  At the end, all the missionaries, instead of clapping, click their fingers.  It is funny to see!  Fireworks went off outside all evening and into the wee hours. We played the Brazilian cup game, "Escravos de Jo" so I felt like I was home.   It felt like a combination of 4th of July and Christmas, especially with the hot weather.  It has been very hot and humid!  Wish we could pipe in some of that cold Idaho air!

On Christmas day, we made the bus trip to a member's home for a churrasco, along with two of the from Argentina and one from northern Brasil.  They served something like potato salad with it and some home-grown veggies and beans today!  We took a store-bought cake which they seemed to really like.  It was a challenge getting it there on the bus and in the heat.    They had cooked pork, beef and chicken.  It was good!  We played the Brazilian cup game again!  They seem to like that. The Sister from Argentina can't quit singing it!

Last night, Sister Biddulph and Sister Rodriges came to Skype their families.  Sister Biddulph was able to reach her family and had a good visit.  Sister Rodriges was able to talk on the phone with family, but the computer of her family was not working.  We surely enjoyed our visits with our family!  Technology is great!

We have missed you all, especially during this season.  But we have enjoyed a different kind of Christmas here and feel so very fortunate to be here.  We hear that visas are still a problem for both old and young.  We hear that they won't be calling any couples to Brazil until visa problems get worked out.  So we are counting our blessings and feel a responsibility to be good missionaries!

This week, we also had an opportunity to help the branch deliver food and sing Christmas carols.  It was another late night.  Things just seem to get started late.  Everybody in the branch donated food for Christmas dinner for families.  We all piled into a few cars.  At one point, there were five of us in the back seat of a little car.  It was fun!

We saved some of our visits that require a lot of walking for tonight (December 26th) when it cooled down a little.  We could hear the frogs.  They sound like a cat almost and are really loud.  Had  some really good visits and some not as good.  We visited at the home of the cute kids ...Emilyn, Whendel and Kuanna.  Their dad was there and told us his pastor would not allow him to be taught by the missionaries.  The kids looked sad.  But we left them some candy and gave hugs and Elder Shirley got in a brief message about the importance of families.

After some other good visits, it was dark.  We waited on a bench for the bus and were joined by a Brazilian couple.  We had a good visit with them.  They asked a lot about if there was discrimination and about the value of the dollar.  They have a son studying English so he can get his education in the US some day.

We are feeling thankful for our many blessings tonight!

Our thoughts and prayers are with you!

Nos te amamos!

Monday, December 23, 2013

Christmas Pictures

December 23, 2013

Cooking a turkey and rolls for 8 missionaries

Street display of Frosty the Snowman

Old gaucho Santa

Santa at the mission Christmas conference

Sunday, December 22, 2013

Meeting lots of great people!

Three Siblings Emilyn, 14, Kauana, 13, and Whendel, 11


December 16, 2013

It´s been a busy week.  We have done lots of walking the heat.  Temperature yesterday was about 95 F.  Someone told us it would probably get to 40 C or around 104 F this next week.  With the humidity, even the natives are complaining.  We try to time our walking so most is done in the morning or the afternoon.  It is great to encounter people on the street. We are still looking at cars.  We have decided that we will probably get one if we find the right deal.  They are expensive down here and so is gas; it is about $4/gallon. But President Castro says, we could visit more inactive members with a car.  We are still taking the bus a lot.  But it still leaves us walking neighborhoods a lot looking for people.

We had some interesting encounters this week.  One lady stopped us on the street this past week.  She had overheard our conversation in a store with an employee about the church.  She told us that she was Catholic and that her daughter was 13.  She wanted her daughter to make up her own mind about religion, but that she herself really liked the `Mormons` and would like her daughter to hear about our church.  We gave her name to the Sister missionaries.  They have an appointment set up for this week and are really enthused.

On Friday, we were walking around a neighborhood, trying to find less active members and let them know about the Branch Christmas party that night.  We stopped at a house where a member used to live and found a family or at least part of one that consisted of 10 kids.  They told us the member we were looking for was their brother and that he and other siblings lived in a house a little distance away.  There had been a divorce in the family and they lived in separate homes.  Three of the kids offered to walk us there after getting permission to do so.  They were so friendly and inquisitive.  There were two girls, Emilyn, 14, Kauana, 13, and Whendel, 11.  They had not been baptized.  They had lots of questions, especially the 14 year old.  We told her we had a granddaughter named Emilee...almost like her.  That made her smile! She asked if women were different in the US.  We told her all women were alike in many ways.  She said that she thought Brazilian women wore shorter skirts!  We had to laugh.  We talked with them about movies, soccer, school, etc.  We even sang some songs with them.  They were a joy!  And we had a nice visit at the other home even though the older brother was not there.  We invited them all to the Branch Christmas party that night never thinking that they would actually come as it was a long ways from the chapel and they didn´t have a car.  But 4 of the kids showed up that night.  They seemed to enjoy the cake & soda and seeing Papai Noel (Santa Claus).  They were quite happy with the little gifts he passed out.  They were in no hurry to leave and said that their mom would meet them half way.  But we felt that we should walk with them.  We ended up walking them all the way home and had another good visit with them.  Emilyn had made a Christmas card for us that was really nice!  Sweet kids!  Sister Biddulph and her new companion will visit them this week.  It made me think about granddaughters that are about that age!  I surely miss them.  Maybe that is why I felt so close to these kids!  They reminded me of grandkids!

We have had lots of other great encounters.  We always seem to find someone who is interested in the Church as we are walking.  It is amazing to me.  Just when we are about to give up on finding someone, someone who is interested shows up.  We were walking back home when it began to rain.  We did not have our umbrella with us.  A car stopped and someone called out to us.  It was a less active member that we had visited.  He offered to take us home.  He was really friendly.  We visited with his wife later. She was very friendly as well.  Hopefully, we can get them back to church soon.  Lack of vehicles and the distance they have to walk is always a problem.

Tomorrow we are supposed to go to Porto Alegre for a Christmas mission conference.  It takes about 3 hours on the bus.  The Elders and Sisters will be going too.  We leave at 6 am.  So it´s an early morning. The Elders & Sisters have requested a get-together on Christmas Eve at our place.  Everyone will bring food.  Guess we will be shopping for more chairs!  We will have 4 Elders and 4 Sisters plus ourselves. Guess I need to experiment with some more recipes too. It should be fun. Then on Christmas day, we have been invited to a member´s home for dinner along with two other Sister missionaries.  We are supposed to take dessert (sobremesa).  If we don´t have a car by then, we will try to catch the onibus!  We are a little worried about the bus schedule on Christmas day and these members live a long ways away.  The sisters are especially worried, but we hate to turn this good sister down.  So we will hope for the best!  A car would be a blessing.

We have taken some crazy bus rides.  The bus is usually packed.  Often we are standing body to body and can hardly maneuver to the exit.  It is so ridiculous that it makes us laugh.  But, especially at nights, I have worried about walking around some of these neighborhoods.  We try to be home before dark, but sometimes it doesn´t work out that way and we find ourselves out after 10 pm.  Elder Shirley doesn´t worry, but I do.  I am always grateful to see a bus coming that will take us home.

We went to the First Presidency Christmas Devotional broadcast last night.  The music, especially, brought unexpected tears!  We enjoyed that a lot!

We experimented with a couple of our recipes.  We made the Bran Muffin mix that we usually make at Christmas.  It turned out pretty good.  Also made slush.  The pineapple here is so sweet...hardly any tang to it.  Lemons are the same way.  So we added lime juice to the slush.  We also made the rice bowls with sweet and sour pork.  It turned out well.  The challenge is finding the ingredients in the store.  It´s a challenge to figure out the names.  And some things they just don´t have.  The sisters have been a great help in figuring out the names of things.  We stop at little Lancherias for rice and beans quite often too when we don´t feel like cooking.  It´s too hot to cook much.  We live on the 3rd floor and the heat sure stacks up.  Our bedroom is air conditioned, fortunately.  Also we get a cool breeze on most nights.  We have windows on all sides so we get good cross ventilation.  We also get a lot of mosquitoes.

Last night they had fireworks in the park that is just down the road from us.  They broadcast Christmas carols from big trucks with speakers that drive around the neighborhoods.  I think we heard Christmas carols til at least 11 pm last night.  So weird to hear Jingle Bells, Frosty the Snowman, etc. when it is so warm outside and fireworks are going off.  Once in a while we hear a song in English too.  Also, on the Friday after Thanksgiving, we saw a sign in a store window in English that said, `Black Friday`.  Funny!

We are thinking of you all and missing you, especially as Christmas approaches!  May the Savior be a part of all of our celebrations!

Love you lots,

Monday, December 9, 2013

New apartment and a baptism

December 9, 2013


 The view from the new apartment

Things are going well....better all of the time.  We surely keep busy.  We have been with the sisters again to hold FHE in a couple of homes.  The good people here always feed us so well.  A family who does not have much money at all fed us pizzas they bought, including dessert pizzas.  I feel bad that they spend so much on us.  Dione (Johnny), the son of the Branch President of Marina went with us last week to visit some less active members and help us get acquainted.  He was great help.  We enjoyed him a lot.  He has recently returned from serving a mission here in Brazil and is still so enthused.  It was soooooo hot and we walked a lot as we were without a car.  We thought we walked a lot before our mission, but this is a lot more.  We had some really good visits and plan to go with him again this week.  We also plan to make more visits to invite inactives to the branch Christmas party.

We finally got moved about 3 days ago!   Everything but internet is connected and we hope to have that sometime this week.  Some of the missionaries want to Skype families on Christmas so we hope it is up and working.  Things are working out quite well although we are now further away from the Uniao and Marina branches, but we are closer to another.  Our shower is a better one, but still has the little heater attached.  But we actually get almost hot water from it.  There is still no hot water anywhere else...not even in the kitchen sink.  We heat water to do the dishes.  But that is very common here.

Last night, 4 of the elders came to visit.  One of them is finished with his mission and going home today.  We had purchased a little pizza and made little sandwiches.  I also got brave and baked my first cake in our new little gas oven.  It actually turned out pretty well.  I tried Grandma Shirley´s chocolate chip cookies a little earlier, but they didn´t turn out too well.  So it´s a matter of experimenting I guess. We also had Guarana....of course.  They drink a lot of soda here.  The 3 main kinds I see are Coke, Fanta Orange and Guarana.  We usually try to avoid drinking water out of the tap.  We have to call to have a big container of it delivered about once a week.  Once in a while at someone´s home we end up drinking water out of the tap when it is offered.  We don´t want to offend.  So far, we´ve been ok.

Neal had to speak again in church yesterday. This time it was in sacrament meeting in the Uniao branch.  They wanted him to talk about accepting callings and tell about our experience and challenges in getting here.  He did a great job.  We were a little worried about it as we had been in on a branch council meeting that was "semi-heated".  They had a RS president who evidently was feeling discouraged and burdened down.  She was not happy about taking on the refreshment assignment for the branch Christmas party and complained about never having any help.  Sounds like I have felt sometimes.  Guess some things are the same no matter where you serve.  The branch president evidently wanted the issue addressed by Neal in sacrament meeting.  He did a good job, mostly just telling about our difficulties and challenges in serving a mission,

Interesting thing, we met the grandson of Ron & Nina Moss.  He is serving a mission here in Brazil and his last name is Wilmore (sounds like no relation to Troy).  Ron was my first boss when I went back to work at Rick´s College after Amber started school.  It was fun to make that connection.  He took pics to send to his Grandpa.

We have the Christmas party of both branches coming up in the next week or so.  Neal may end up playing Santa Claus.  We will see.  We got an invitation yesterday to join two of the sister missionaries at the home of a member for Christmas dinner.  I have an assignment to bring sobremesa (dessert).  It will be a challenge to find a recipe that I have all of the ingredients for.  With the help of the sisters, we have found a lot of things at the grocery store.....baking powder, cocoa, baking soda, flour, sugar, etc.  But there are a lot of things that they don´t have that I am used to.  Guess we will do some experimenting.  We had a good dessert the other day that a member made.  They had taken chocolate cookies and soaked them in Guarana and put layers of them in a kind of torte pan and then frosted it on top.  It actually was very good and required no cooking which surprised me.  I got the recipe for that.  It surely is a learning process!

Thanks to all for your letters and support.  We are so grateful for you all.  It is kind of hard to find Christmas cards here, so we didn´t send out many.  But we hope you are all enjoying your preparations and enjoying the season.  It seems we hardly are able to give it a thought.  It is so strange to see Christmas decorations and hear Christmas music when it is so hot!  We have attached two pics. The first is of a baptism that we went to on Saturday.  I found something similiar to Smarties and took them for a couple of the kids getting baptized.  So we were pretty popular. The second is the view from our new apartment.

We are thinking of you all!

Lots of Love!

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Thanksgiving in Brazil

December 4, 2013

It was so fun to talk with everyone on Thanksgiving Day.  No one celebrates here.  But that was ok.  Just being able to see family via Skype made me feel so good.  It´s so good to see that all is well and you are all taking care of and loving each other!  It made my birthday!  Thanks for all the good wishes and cards. And the letters sent to the mtc caught up to us.  Thanks so much!  What fun to read them!  I wondered if it would make me feel more homesick, but it just made me feel so good to see you carrying out all of the old traditions!  Love you all for that!

We aren´t moved into our new apartment yet, but getting closer.  They have delivered and are putting things together and setting up.  It takes a while when you are starting from scratch.  We are anxious to get moved in and let the sisters have their place back.  Most of our contact is with the sister missionaries.  They are really amazing.  I think we have said that before.  I think we told you before that one set of them fasted on Thanksgiving Day for an investigator.  They actually shed tears when things didn´t go as they had hoped.  They care a lot.  They like to stop by our place for sandwiches and treats and a drink of water.  We have a good time with them.  We go with them quite often for FHE and visits at investigator homes.  We are scheduled again to go tonight.  We spent the afternoon with a member who is a former missionary.  He took us around to several of the homes of inactive members.  It was a good afternoon.  It was really hot and our feet hurt because we walked and walked and walked!  But it was good.  We had some good visits.  We stopped afterwards for sorvette.  (ice cream).  There are little shops in almost every block.  They make a vanilla/chocolate twist cone that is really good, especially on such a hot day.

We made the 2 1/2 hour bus trip to Porto Alegre yesterday to get police clearance per Pres. Castro´s request.  The Elders met us at the bus station with big smiles and treated us like royalty.  They are so funny.  They took us everywhere and did everything for us.  All we had to do was provide the face for the photo and the fingers for fingerprints.  They whipped out their umbrellas to hold over us when it started to rain.  We walked a lot there too.  It really poured.  There was even hail.  They took us to a restaurant where all the other Elders joined us.  Since there was a zone leader conference going on, there was around 40 elders.....a big festa! The rain caused the power to go out in the restaurant, but everyone just kept on eating.  I can´t identify most of what we eat anyway...except rice and beans.  They even had ice in the glass for water.  It´s the first ice that we have had here in Brazil.   I have missed that.  Neal got to see Alceu, his friend from 45 years ago.  That was a fun reunion for him.  We returned to Cachoeira about 8 pm last night.

We have been doing so much walking that we have about decided that we need to buy a car, used, but dependable  There are lots of places that we should visit that are just too far to walk and buses can´t always be depended on, especially on Sundays.  Rain has also made it hard.  When it rains, it is usually such a downpour that an umbrella is not much use.  They usually get turned inside out.   So we have been doing some car shopping by ourselves and some with Pres. Torres.  We will see how that goes.

We have a branch meeting for the Uniao Ramo in a bit, so I guess we had better go.  We are so thankful for all of you.  We love to show pictures of all of you to everyone!  Thanks for the letters!  Love you all!

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Bon Dia!

November 25, 2013
{I just received some pictures that I've added to the bottom of the post, 11/26, 2:30pm}

Well it´s been uma semana!  We continue to adjust.  I am now beginning to see the beauty around me instead of just the strangeness.  We are settling into more of a routine.  And it was so good to hear from everyone.  I will try to respond to everyone individually, but here at Pedal de Ouro, we pay for internet by the hour.  It is a very small space with lots of computers and people and noise.  A lot of the letters on the keyboard are worn off and things are moved around a little.  Sometimes the computers just say that you are done.  So we will see how it goes. President Castro is coming from Porto Alegre this week to help us get into a new place.  Pres. Torres drove us by the new place yesterday.  It is right in the center of the city and is totally unfurnished.  So it may take a while to get into it and get what we need.  I am looking forward to a full-size bed.  We have pushed two single beds together.  Sometimes they separate in the night and we `fall through the cracks´.  We will be able to get internet then or we may just get a new cell phone.  President Castro will advise us.

It has been a busy week.  We have had district meetings with the young Elders and Sisters.  It was fun to meet them all.  We already knew how amazing the young sisters are.  But the Elders are great enthusiastic.  I admire them all so much.

We have been given the keys to the church.  It seems that we always arrive first and end up unlocking things for the meetings and then locking up at the end.  We had a "married couples" party in one of the branches.  Elder Shirley and I went over to the Branch President´s home (Brother Fortes aka Brother Glauber...his first name).  Brother Glauber has really taken a liking to Neal, I think.  He had to pick us up as we don´t have a car.  However, we have got acquainted with the bus this week.  That works out well.  Good thing we practiced riding the bus in Centerville!  Anyway, Neal helped cut up meat into little cubes for a type of stroganoff.  I shredded a lot of cabbage and grated carrots!!  They put the shredded cabbage on a plate with a little carrot on top and then decorated the top with pickles.  We made lots of plates of that. Then we took the food to the church and helped set up for the festa.  There were a lot of investigators.  It was a fun party.  They played games too.  I worried a bit when they took all of the ladies into another room to explain the rules of the games.  I wondered how I would understand.  Fortunately, it was an easy game and I could catch on easily.

Every day we get out and about to visit or to just let ourselves be seen.  Everyone is friendly.  One lady asked if she could give us a ride.  We had a nice discussion with her.  She asked about the church.  She was a devout Catholic, but so friendly.  The man who delivers drinking water to our apartment told us that he had seen us around and asked questions.  Most people have seen the sisters or elders already but are curious about us old people.

On Saturday, we sent to a baptism.  It had been a joint effort by the sisters and elders.  It was great!

Pres. Glauber asked Elder Shirley to speak on Sunday in the Marina Branch.  I think Neal had anticipated that as he already had some preparations made.  He did a really great job.  Also, it was the Primary program yesterday.  Such familiar music in such a strange tongue!  But it sure touched my heart!  They had just 10 kids.  They each had multiple parts.  There was just one leader and a music person.  But they did have a piano player, which was impressive.

I don´t think that they do much for Thanksgiving here.  But they have been preparing and decorating for Christmas.

We are doing well.  We feel safe and are keeping busy, hopefully doing what the Lord wants us to do.  I think that they are still figuring out what they should do with us.  But we try to pitch in and help with whatever is going on.  Posso ajudar is our motto!  (I can help!)  I am picking up a little more all of the time on what is being said.  I work on speaking and studying  every day.   But when we are at home, I sure like to speak English!  That probably isn´t good.  I know that I would learn faster if I used it more at home too.  I do try to speak to people when we are out and about....especially at church.  They don´t give me a choice.  They don´t stop at a hug, a pat and a smile.  They ask questions or tell me things.  I feel that I have to try and respond.  I am sure that I don´t make much sense sometimes.  But they seem pleased that I try.

Happy Thanksgiving!  We are so thankful for you all! Thanks for your enthusiasm and support!!!!
Lots of Love!

1 - Elder Shirley checking out the local John Deere dealership

2 - A local nativity scene

3 - Elder Shirley helping prepare food for a branch party

4 - Sister Shirley doing branch party preparations

5 - A good rainstorm

6 - Current sleeping situation - 2 twin beds pushed together

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

First report from the first area: Cachoeira do Sul

A great report from Elder & Sister Shirley from their first area.  There are also some good pictures that they sent at the bottom of the post.

November 18, 2013
Here we are in Cachoeira do Sul, Brasil....2 1/2 hours west of Porto Alegre.  We are living in a temporary apartment that belonged to Sister missionaries.  They moved in with the other pair of sister missionaries.  They are preparing an apartment for us towards the center of the city so we can serve the whole district.  It should be ready in about 10 days.  We hope to have internet there.  For now, we are using internet at a little store owned by a member called "Pedal de Ouro" which means Leaf of Gold.

The trip here was long.  We ran into a little problem in the airport at Sao Paulo.  They did not show that we had tickets to Porto Alegre.  Guess it was never confirmed.  We had to purchase tickets ourselves and will be reimbursed.  Fortunately, there was room on the plane and it was lucky that they had room.  Elders from the mission office met us and we required two taxis to get us and our baggage to the mission office.  Too many hands helping remove the baggage, or maybe we were just tired, but the computer bag...the one with our new laptap and two tablets...was left in the taxi.  We did not discover it until a couple of hours after.  The Elders took us out to eat at a churrascaria with food like Toucanos.  We discovered the bag was missing upon our return from eating.  We were sick.  The Elders jumped into action.  They made calls, prayed and gave us reassurance.  One Elder was trying to get us bus tickets to Cachoeira and it just wasn´t working.  He kept saying it was because we had to wait for the bag to be found.  A miracle (milagre grande) happened!  The taxi company called back and said they had found it.  They returned it to us.  Elder Shirley and I and several Elders were waiting on the street for him.  I guess that just never happens.  President Castro, who had been at a baptism called us later to say that we were the first miracle of the mission because bags are just never found and returned.  The Elder trying to get us bus tickets was able to do so after the bags were returned.  We were surely relieved.

We met many Brazilian people on our way to Brasil that were friendly and talkative.  Elder Shirley talked like crazy to them.  One family of a Doctor, his wife, and married daughter knew of the church and wanted to exchange e-mails and asked us to keep in touch.  We think that they are prime for missionaries.  They asked us to pray for their daughter-in-law to be able to have children.  They have a lot of faith in God and in prayer.  We will try to do a referral.  They live in Curitiba.

Then on the flight to Porto Alegre, Dad sat by a pastor of the Assembly of God church.  Again, it was non-stop friendly conversation...not about religion but about interests.  It was a mutual appreciation for God and the work of God.  As you can see, Elder Shirley is just doing so excellent with the language.    I keep getting put on the spot as people come up and start asking me questions.  I manage to get out a few basic words, but sure feel frustrated and inadequate.  Yesterday, they had us go to two different Branch Sacrament Meetings.  We had to give short talks and bear testimony.  Thank heavens for that good Douglas Destro, our MTC tutor!  Testimony was one of the first assignments I had and so I was able to do a brief testimony.

People are very friendly.  We were invited to two different homes for lunch after church.  We went with a pair of Sister missionaries to the home of a member family.  They served us something like mashed potatoes with corn in it, rice, beans, and chicken.  It actually tasted good.  We also had something called pitanga, a little red fruit, the size of a little grape tomato.  They had a very small, humble home, surrounded by a forest of mostly fruit trees.  But they were willing to share whatever they had.

The sister missionaries...two sets.... are pretty amazing.  There is Sister Biddulph from Idaho Falls and another sister from Lehi, Utah.  They are helpful and cute!  I am just so amazed at how well they speak and interact with the members.  We will meet the Elder missionaries on Tuesday.  They are the Zone Leaders.  The District President, Elder Torrres, is about our age and lives here.  He had shopped for a few groceries for us and ran us to another branch building for a meeting last night.

We arrived tired.  Time here is 5 hours ahead of home.  We had an overnight flight and a long bus trip here, arriving about 10:30 pm.  We had to be at church about 8:30 am and then had a busy afternoon.  So we didn´t get much sleep.  But we slept long and hard last night.  We are scheduled to go with the Sisters tonight to teach a man about the Book of Mormon.

Our temporary apartment is pretty humble. Elder Shirley says it is about like the places he lived in 45 years ago.  It is requiring some adjustment on my part.  Yes, Brian, it is a third world country!  (at least in places, like our apartment. )  We don´t know what our next place will be like yet, but President Torres says it will have air conditioning.  We also hope to get internet.  When President Castro gets back, he says he will help us get set up with it. We brought an adapter for the electrical outlets with us.  But for some reason, it went poof...up in smoke when I was trying to use my flat iron.  We are shopping for new stuff today.  In the meantime, my hair is quite a site!

The hardest part is being away from you all and especially not having a phone or internet handy.  They gave us a phone, but so far we can only do local calls.  We will visit this little internet store until we can get our own internet.   We are hanging in there.  Glad we have each other!    Trying to do our best!  We love and pray for you all!  Will be in touch again soon.  Would love your e-mails!
Eu te amo!

November 19, 2013

(I got this response after I wrote to Mom and asked for a few more details on their living conditions)
Oi!  So good to hear from you.  Tell Amber, Jessie, & Shiree & anyone else that we would love to hear from them too.  I have "saudades" (which translated means “I miss you badly”) for home and family.  You asked about hot water.  We have a little heater for the shower only.  It makes the shower lukewarm.  No hot water in the kitchen. We pushed two twin beds together to sleep in.  We have seen cockroaches but not in our apartment. And btw....your dad and I had to speak in two different sacrament meetings!  We went with the sisters last night and supported them with a BOM discussion with a former member and his Catholic wife.  My stomach was a little unhappy yesterday, but lots better today.  We had a district meeting with the elders and sisters this morning.  Dad spent this morning fixing the light in the sala de estar.  It had loose wires and required a pen in the switch to keep it on.  But it works great now!

It is hot and humid.  Dad sweat right through his shirt collar and his red tie faded onto his white shirt.  Crazy!  He got a good sunburn on his head.  The missionaries are great....especially the sisters.  They are a lot of help to me.  Hopefully we can be of help to them as well.  We had to console one sister yesterday as she was having problems with her companion who is from Argentina.

We are in the Pedal de Ouro again on their computers.  We will be glad if we ever get internet. But we are glad that we have access to it here. Hope everyone is doing well.  Love you all!  Thinking of you all!

Dad fixes stuff wherever he goes!  

 Mom and her new fridge

 Cooking dinner on a little stove

The view from the apartment #1

 The view from the apartment #2

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Medical Clearance Received! Off to Brazil tomorrow (Friday 11/15)!

Great news!  Elder Shirley had a follow-up appointment with the doctor yesterday (Wednesday, 11/13) and received the medical clearance that he was hoping for. They now have airline tickets in hand and are leaving the country tomorrow morning (Friday, 11/15).  Here are their parting words before they go:

We are attaching the traditional MTC map pic.  Vamos la!  Cuidado Brasil!  Can you believe it?!

We are all packed, riding our bags, and watching the clock (especially Neal).  We think this might actually happen this time.  But don't hold your breath!  We are scheduled to leave the MTC at 7:30AM tomorrow morning.  Our flight leaves at 11:09AM.  We fly to Atlanta, and overnight to Sao Paulo, then to Porto Alegre.  We arrive there at 1:00PM Saturday (Brazil time, which is 5 hours ahead of us here.)

We loved the MTC, especially the first week.  It was not so fun the subsequent two weeks...waiting out kidney stones.  But we look forward to continuing our adventure and actually doing what we have been called to do.

The hardest part is leaving family (and friends)!  We love you all!  We will miss you so very much!  But we plan to write and Skype and hope you will keep in touch as well.  Keep on being the great family you are!  It's hard to even think of all the changes there will be in grandkids!  We will do our best to make you and Heavenly Father proud of us.   We know time will fly.  Can't believe we have already waited 18 months plus to begin this journey.  18 more to go!

May the Lord bless and keep you.  Eu te amo!!

Elder & Sister Shirley

MTC group picture

Here is a pic of our MTC group....86 senior missionaries....going all over the world.  We are the only ones going to Brazil.  An amazing group!

Sunday, November 3, 2013

Bonus MTC post with pictures!

Here is a picture of our District.  Our teacher, Brother Lystrup, was funny, but had some very good ideas.  He wants to be a lawyer.  Others in our class were:  Elder and Sister Funaki (headed from Hawaii to Tonga).  They have invited us to visit them in two years in Hawaii.  They dance at the Polynesian Cultural Center.  Elder and Sister Garner are going to Kirtland.  They were from Arizona and going to Kirtland.  She is a Navajo and really funny.  He helped give Neal a blessing.  Elder and Sister Wiscome    are going to Spain.  He was an airline pilot.  He was our District Leader.  They were a very spiritual pair.  We loved this group!

Other pics are of the view outside our room at the MTC.  The Provo temple is behind some trees.  We can see the Angel Moroni.  It is a beautiful view.  

A wonderful week in the MTC

We have had a wonderful week at the MTC.  It has been pretty intense, but wonderful.  We haven't done a lot of sleeping.  But we did not come here to sleep, right?  There have been lots of spiritual experiences.  We have had to do a lot of role playing and teaching.  We have had practice with our district class members as well as with community volunteers (although some are paid).  Some are not members of the church.  Everyone plays their part well, so you don't know if you are really teaching a non-member or not.  There have been lots of tears and spiritual experiences.

A highlight of the week was a devotional.  Elder Carolos Godoy, a member of the Seventy, was the speaker.  He is from Porto Alegre, Brazil....the same city that we are going to.  He was a great speaker and funny too.  We were able to meet him afterwards.  He even knew Alceu, Elder Shirley's friend in Porto Alegre.  He told us what a great man Alceu was.  He kept patting my arm and telling me what a brave woman I was.  That worried me a little.  He gave Elder Shirley "um abraco forte" (a Brazilian hug).  It was an uplifting evening.

We finished the week of Preach My Gospel at the MTC and returned to our room anticipating a weekend of final preparations of packing and doing laundry, etc.  We were excited.  We were to leave to catch our flight to Brazil at 7:30 am Monday morning.  But you know how plans go.  Upon returning to our room, Elder Shirley began to have a kidney stone attack.  He thought he recognized the feeling from an attack about 20 years ago.  (Some things I guess you don't forget.)  After a great blessing by some fellow MTC friends, we were shuttled to the hospital here in Provo where they found he had several kidney stones, two of which were big ones on the move.  After spending the night in the hospital, Elder Shirley had surgery the next day.  They "blasted" the two large stones and scheduled him to return next Thursday to take care of the remaining smaller ones.  We will have a follow-up visit the Wednesday after that.  So our departure for Brazil will be delayed about two weeks.

We are disappointed.  It was no fun spending the night in the hospital without even a toothbrush.  But we are so grateful that we were not in Brazil and especially not on a long over-night flight to Brazil.  We have heard stories about lots of medical problems surfacing while in the MTC.  That is a blessing, I guess, to take care of potential problems before you are actually in the field.

Everyone here at the MTC has been so accommodating and good to us.  We will remain here until we leave for Brazil.  They will provide shuttle service back and forth to doctors and the hospital.  The doctor was so good as well.  At one point after surgery, the doctor, still in his scrubs, actually called the MTC to make arrangements for the shuttle and to be sure we would continue to have a place to stay.  That was both amazing and strange to us.  We are used to being independent.  I was grateful, but not sure I liked it either.  Mostly I was grateful!

It is amazing to me the reactions we get to the missionary badges that we wear.  We get a lot of attention.  People take a look and then begin to ask questions.  We explained our situation a lot.  One nurse that walked us out of the hospital to the waiting shuttle gave us a parting hug and said "Pray for Me!"  That surprised me as I had been focused on our own problems.  I was reminded that we all have our challenges.

We are ok!  We still have our testimonies!  We will get to Brazil (I am pretty sure).  Neal is feeling much much better.  We are grateful for the love and support of family and friends.   We have been greatly blessed!

Love you all,  
Elder & Sister Shirley

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

October 29, 2013

Day 2 at the MTC has been good & bad....mostly good.  Spent the day in classes and practiced teaching investigators with those in our district.  One couple in our district, Elder & Sister Wiscombe are going to Spain.  Elder & Sister Gardner are going to Kirtland and Elder & Sister Funaki are going to Tonga.  Classes have been good and fun.  What great people are here at the MTC!  Tomorrow we as individual couples we  will teach actual investigators that they are bringing in from off campus.  Hope we don't damage them too much!  Tonight we have a devotional with a General Authority.  We don't know who yet.  We are looking forward to it.

They feed us a lot!  And there are lots of choices.  But we are trying to eat wisely and are exercising each evening.  There is an exercise room just across the hall from us.

Now for the not so good part.  Our afternoon class was interrupted when they brought us an "Important Message" from the Travel Office.  We were told that they had just had a call from the travel office in SLC and that our visas had not arrived yet and we would be delayed.  (Remember my big fear that they would lose our visas?)  However, we  knew that they had given them to us upon our arrival at the MTC.  They were signed and sitting in our room, along with our passports and flight plans.  We left class and picked them up and took them to the travel office here at the MTC.  They verified that we did indeed have our visas and placed some calls to the Church Travel Office in SLC.  It seems that they have had some personnel changes.  Plus right at the time we were trying to call, the SLC office was having a fire drill.  We had a few scary moments.  Evidently someone was looking at an old list of delays and called by mistake.  But it left us feeling a little unsettled.  We think that even when we are in Brazil, we will still be getting "sorry, but you are delayed" calls.   We will be nervous until we are actually in Brazil.  Neal says that he is going to kiss the ground when he gets there.

We miss and love you all and are so grateful for your support!  As "privileged" senior couples, we can use the internet and facebook.  It is so fun and uplifting to see all your postings.  It helps us not miss family quite so much! 

Love you bunches,

Elder & Sister Shirley

MTC Day 1

October 28, 2013

This first message is taken from a text that Mom sent out on the evening of their first day in the MTC:

Survived day 1! It is amazing how many great people are here. We spent most of the day in orientation. We ate early and went to work out. We were the only ones there. We will spend the evening doing studies. Miss you all but it's great to be started. Love you all!