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 too....so 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